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Thursday, December 5, 2019

Student Government

Students to vote on fee

UH Athletics Director Mack Rhoades spoke at the SGA meeting on Wednesday to tell the senators and students in attendance why the Athletics Department needs student fees to increase $45 per semester. | Paul Crespo/The Daily Cougar

The UH Student Government Association passed a bill calling for a fee increase to be sent to student referendum after it had a narrow one-vote majority following a speech promoting the hike given by Director of Athletics Mack Rhoades.

The $45 per semester increase would help to pay for a new football stadium and renovations to the facilities in Hofheinz Pavilion and would be in place for the next 25 years, Rhoades said.

Robertson Stadium, built in 1941, is in dire need of retirement, and crumbling concrete will make the stadium unsafe for use in 18 months, he said.

According to Rhoades, Hofheinz is structurally sound, but desperately needs to renovate its facilities in order to compete with the facilities of other schools in the Big East conference.

Engineering Senator Kennan Stuhr pointed out that the cost of the improvements could be covered if students were charged $25 for admission to football games, so the facilities would be paid for by the students who use them, but Rhoades said the money had to be guaranteed by student fees.

If the Athletics Department receives more than the projected $75 million in donations, it would work to decrease the student fee so students would not have to pay.

Current students, who would have pay the fee during the two years of construction, could be reimbursed through a discount on the price of season passes after they graduate, Rhoades said, although Stuhr pointed out that this does little good for students who aren’t interested in athletics and is really just “an opportunity to pay more money.”

“Our goal as a University is to have not just more students but better students,” Stuhr said. “And good students (don’t decide what school to attend) based on a Saturday afternoon commercial.”

Due to limited seating in the stadium, less than 15 percent of students paying the fee would be able to utilize the facilities the fees will pay for on any given day, Stuhr said.

The bill calls for a vote by the entire UH student body to decide whether or not the fee will be implemented.

“Give the students who elected us to these positions the opportunity to vote on an issue that affects (every student on campus)… If students really care, as we know they do, they will turn out (to voice their opinion),” College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences Senator Lee Arnold said, speaking in favor of the bill, although some other senators questioned student ability to access and utilize the information necessary to make a decision.

“Our voter turnout is between 9 and 12 percent,” Business Senator Sebastian Geser said, which is not enough to accurately show the opinion of the student body.

By voting to pass the referendum, the senate would not merely be allowing the students to make the decision, they would be providing “shadow endorsement” to the fee increase, Stuhr said.

The proposed plan for the new stadium would allow for efficient expansion should it become necessary at a later date, but Rhoades said that students would not be asked to pay for additional expansion.

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