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SGA Addresses Club Sports Funding

By Tess Weitzner

The Student Government Association (SGA) voted to pass the Club Sports Funding Methodology bill on Sunday, March 13. The proposal, sponsored by Sophomore Senator Colin Boyle ’18, calls for the creation of a committee tasked with developing alternative methods of funding club sports before a March 2017 deadline.

Currently, about 350 students are active in club sports including the crew, rugby and water polo teams. Funding for these teams is predominantly derived from the $410 Student Activities Fee (SAF) that every student is required to pay at the beginning of the year in addition to the comprehensive fee covering tuition and housing — the Department of Athletics does not contribute funds for these teams. To cover additional costs, these teams rely on alumni donations, extensive fundraising initiatives and personal contributions.

Boyle’s proposal will seek to bridge the deficit between the full operating costs of these teams and a per­ capita funding scheme, like the one proposed by SGA Treasurer and Chair of the SGA Finance Committee Aaron de Toledo ’16.

De Toledo’s proposed bill would reform the methods in which the Finance Committee allocates funds to club sports by operating on a per capita basis, calling for a tier system in which clubs are designated certain funding caps based on the number of participants and the general cost of the sport. Sports such as the equestrian, crew and sailing teams would comprise the first tier, and their funding would be capped at the maximum $410 per person.

In turn, funding for the club sports recognized in the first tier — which tend to require the most expensive equipment — would be cut by nearly a third of their current levels. Changes in this form of funding would have little effect for teams in lower tiers such as cycling, fencing and badminton, which are not as costly.

“We try to strike that balance as best we can, but given the fact that we do hear criticism, we want to create a more transparent process, but also a more equitable process,” de Toledo said. “It’s not a strict equality thing by any means. However, it’s capping [the funds] a little bit by kind of balancing that spectrum of equality and meeting everyone’s needs.”

Under Boyle’s bill, the proposal detailed by de Toledo will not take effect and no changes will be made to the current funding methodology. The new committee will be tasked with finding alternative funding solutions and will be comprised of the head and two members of the Finance Committee, one treasurer or representative from each individual club sport and two members of the Senate.

However, if this committee does not find a feasible solution by March 2017, the SGA and the Finance Committee will pass de Toledo’s plan.

Nathaniel Wiener ’18, treasurer of the sailing team, said, “If the budget goes into effect as proposed, we will either be forced to cease being a competitive team or raise our team dues to $300 to 400 per participant … [this increased fee] will likely lead to decreasing first-year enrollment next year and, in turn, decreased funding for the club going forward since we will have fewer competing members.”

Clara Sternberg ’19 of the equestrian team voiced similar concerns that cuts to team funding would force membership to be more exclusive, allowing only those who can afford an increased membership fee to participate.

“The prospect of limiting beginner participation would go against our desire to bring people into the sport, especially those who have not had the opportunity to ride before coming to [the College],” she said. “It is likewise unfair to ask team members to pick up the funding discrepancy by paying more out of pocket when we already spend hundreds of dollars to be able to ride.”

Members of the crew team also expressed apprehension towards de Toledo’s proposal and, along with the equestrian and sailing teams, attended the SGA meeting on March 13. Senators opened the floor for discussion of the proposals raised by de Toledo and Boyle. When the senate voted to pass Boyle’s proposal, loud applause ensued from all three teams.

“We are very happy that the Senate chose to pass this proposal and not institute a funding cap for this year, as it will give us time to work with them to find a better solution,” President of Middlebury Rowing Erika Sloan ’16 said. “We understand the difficult position that the SGA is in — ideally, at least some of our funding would be covered by the administration/athletics and not fall to the SGA. Though the school has been unwilling to do so in the past, we hope that the committee formed as a result of Boyle’s proposal will enable us to move towards that goal in a clear and organized way.”

She continued, “Drastically cutting our funding, as the original proposal would have done, would have had a devastating impact on our ability to remain the team that provides such an important opportunity to so many Middlebury students. With no other options, we would have been forced to raise our membership fees. This is the absolute last thing we want to do, as our goal is keep rowing at Middlebury open and accessible to anyone who wishes to learn the sport and be part of the team. We already stretch our gift account thin providing as much financial aid as we possibly can, and raising the participation fee would likely also raise barriers to inclusivity that are simply unacceptable.”

Boyle, who is also a member of the crew team, was thrilled by the decision.

“I think a lot of club sports just encountered the reality that they almost just lost a significant amount of their budget,” he said. “I think it will light a little fire, and I think that club sports will need a lot of momentum behind finding a solution because I think we know administration needs to be pushed.”

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