Thursday the 15th, the students of North Texas voted on an increase in the athletics fee. The results were challenged for the second time and a Student Government Association hearing will commence within 72 hours of the challenge before the results are reveled or no. The first time this vote was held the complaint held up the vote revelation and the SGA ruled to have a second vote.
It does not bode well that just last week UTSA’s own fee increase proposal was shot down convincingly. Jared Kalmus has a nice review of the situation and it’s complexity.
This most recent vote was a much tougher sell than the 2007 vote though. The 2018 proposal was an ambiguous, unimaginative, and unambitious mess with zero marketing behind it up until the week of the vote. UTSA’s athletics’ marketing and outreach ahead of the vote was so minimal that it begs the question of whether or not the silent approach was an intentional tactic to minimize voting turnout so that only the most rabid of athletics supporters would log on to vote …
Confusion ran amok in the days leading up to the opening of the polls. Students fled to social media in an attempt to learn more about the referendum but answers were hard to find. A common misconception voiced by UTSA students was that the fee increase would directly subsidize coaches’ salaries which was not true — only internal athletics revenue is used to pay salaries.
The North Texas proposal is much more clearly defined but there is the same opposition behind it. On most campuses anywhere — and especially the public universities — there is a large contingent of anti-sports people who do not believe that any of the tuition should subsidize anything non-academic, especially if the sports teams are not ‘good’. Similarly, there are many who believe that no fee should go to anything the payer does not ‘use’.
Having a cursory understanding of Economics and tax theory puts me on the side of thinking that these fees are nominal. I obviously think that sports are more important than simply distraction and do add to the overall connection to the University — and therefore the people.
I also think that every situation is unique. There is no doubt that the two proposals have had a very different marketing push from their respective universities. It is remarkable how both pushes plead poor and compare themselves to the rest of the league — North Texas’ even compares themselves to UTSA.
Still, the question does not have an easy answer in either direction. Scandals at Baylor, MSU, Penn State, and elsewhere all highlight our collective easy dismissal of terrible things for the sake of our precious sporting prowess. At some level it is about preserving power and money, and perhaps the status quo over anything else.
In these things we have to ask ourselves if our support makes us complicit in the crimes on some level. Asking that question brings up another: what do we do about it?
There are certainly levels of response to the worst corruptions of our institutions — be they sport or elections — and the appropriate responses are not so clear, but will undoubtedly be discerned through contemplation and rigorous thought. Who is ready and willing and able to do the work involved?
What ever way these votes go, they are more complicated than the easy retort that these students just don’t care about their school but that the students care about other things also.