By Joe Friesen
Plans for a referendum on athletics funding have been shelved and may not be revived in time to secure more money for the coming academic year.
The proposed vote could have doubled the mandatory athletics fee and ensured the future of a number of varsity teams. As it stands, with no new funding expected, sports and recreation could face a financial crunch next September.
Departmental budget figures for the past three years indicate that despite steady increases in student numbers, the sports and recreation department could soon slip into deficit.
“What this suggests is that we’ll have to live with a reduced budget,” said Marion Creery, director of student services.
Linda Grayson, vice president administration and student affairs, said the referendum proposal was not yet ready to go before the Board of Governors.
“All requests, before they go anywhere, have to be looked at,” said Grayson. “I saw a version [of the proposal] and said it needed to go back.”
The sports and recreation department is being kept afloat at the moment by a surplus left over from previous years. That surplus has dwindled from $388,000 in 2002 to a projected $108,000 this year.
“We have options and we have to pursue each option,” said David Dubois, director of sports and recreation.
Those options include restructuring the budget, and, as Dubois told the Eyeopener last month, possibly cutting certain varsity teams. Men’s hockey, with funding of $134,000 per year, is more than twice as expensive as any other sport. It also fails several of the test criteria set out by Dubois in his Sport Model for Ryerson University, published last spring. Although hockey has an active alumni group, it is a sport with no gender equity, no on-campus facility and a tiny fan base.
“There’s no plans to cut the hockey team,” said Dubois. “Why would I want to cut the hockey team? It’s Canada’s national sport.”
A recent survey conducted by the sports and recreation department showed that although 75 per cent of students have never attended a varsity game, roughly the same number believe that varsity sort is important to university life.
According to Grayson, the referendum proposal could still come before the board in time for a spring vote, but the process would have to be greatly accelerated.
Ryerson has some of the lowest sports and recreation fees in Canada. The proposed referendum would have asked students to approve a three-year plan to increase their fees from $55.30 to between $100 and $110 per year.