RAC-ING UP FITNESS FEES

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By Jordan Press

The fate of Ryerson’s sport and recreation department is in the hands of the students after the Board of Governors approved a referendum to triple fees.

Under the proposal, the mandatory athletic fees that each student pays with tuition would increase from $57.17 to about $137 each year.

RAC memberships, which currently cost $45 for an eight-month pass, would be eliminated, along with fees for intramurals and aerobics classes. The increased fees would pump an extra $1.4 million into the department’s annual budget. This year, sports and recreation is running a deficit of about $150,000, according to David Dubois, head of sports and recreation.

The motion for the referendum passed unanimously at Monday’s board meeting. It is scheduled to take place on Oct. 21. Dubois said the increase in fees is needed to keep up with students’ demands and not just to improve varsity sports.

“We’re not doing this because we’re running out of money,” he said. “We’re not meeting demands. This is a long-term [solution].”

Currently, Ryerson has the lowest mandatory athletic fees in the province. It is also the only university to have additional charges for participating in intramural sports. There is no minimum voter turnout needed for the vote to be legitimate.

If a majority of full and part-time student voters approve the increase, the $76 jump in fees would be phased in over two years. Gym membership fees would disappear in the first year of the $38 increase.

If the referendum fails, Dubois would have to wait until early next year for another try. Dubois said the increased fees would allow more students to participate in intramurals, to purchase new equipment and to keep the RAC open until midnight every night.

Currently, there are more than 8,000 student members at the RAC. Dubois said plans to move sports teams off campus and to extend hours would ease the congestion caused by having more members in the gym.

“You’re going to have these lineups as well, but you’re going to be able to distribute it over longer hours,” he said.

According to Linda Grayson, vice president administration and student services, the university would be launching a campaign to get students informed before the vote. About $6,000 has been budgeted for advertising and voting materials.

Before bringing it to the board on Monday, the university held focus groups and consulted with RyeSAC and CESAR.

RyeSAC President Dave MacLean said he supported an increase and felt it was long overdue. “This is an excellent opportunity to improve campus life,” he said. “I think it’s something we should have been doing a long time ago.”

MacLean and Dubois said more women would be able to take classes, like aerobics, at the RAC without having to pay extra. That, they said, would ensure there aren’t just guys roaming around the underground facility who want to use the weight room.

Dubois pushed for the referendum last year, but Grayson said sports and recreation needed to do more research to make sure options weren’t overlooked. At the time, former RyeSAC President Ken Marciniec referred to the referendum as a “cash grab” from students.

“It’s always easy to ask students for more money instead of getting proper government funding,” he said.

Last year, Dubois said if students voted no to the increase, user fees at the RAC would need to go up and the university would have to cut one or more varsity sports teams.

Already, teams like swimming and squash have lost their varsity status.

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