Last Sunday, March 13, the Student Government Association (SGA) passed Sophomore Senator Colin Boyle’s Club Sports Funding Methodology bill. The bill extends club sports funding at its current level and, in anticipation of future budget constraints, delegates a committee to find an alternative method of funding by March of 2017. The Campus calls upon this committee to find a solution that is both equitable among the club sports programs and fair in regards to all student activities.
Currently, club sports are exclusively funded by Student Activities, which derives its funding from the $410 activities fee paid by each student at the start of every year. Students are required to pay this fee on the premise that it will directly benefit them. In some ways it does – a large portion of the budget supports organizations like MCAB, the SGA and Commons that service the entire student body. However, an entire 10 percent of the budget supports club sports teams. Only 350 students participate in club athletics, yet every student pays to support these programs. While The Campus understands club sports to be integral to the College’s athletics program, we believe these teams represent a disproportionate amount of the Student Activities budget.
Club sports provide a diverse array of competitive and recreational opportunities where varsity options do not necessarily exist. For many students, playing a club sport is a defining element of their Middlebury experience. Many of the teams are highly competitive or even compete at the varsity level. For example, our men’s rugby team is one of the best in the country, and women’s water polo is ranked in the top 15th nationally.
We realize that these programs are expensive and require resources that non-athletic organizations do not. While some student organizations can afford a tighter budget, significantly reducing a club team’s funds could jeopardize its existence. Every year, more students are participating and team budgets are increasing. While the average student organization budget is two thousand dollars per year, the median sports team receives eight thousand dollars. Club sports are increasingly expensive to fund; asking all students to support these programs is not a sustainable solution.
Until the College finds a better way to source the funds, we would at least like to see increased equity among the programs. Currently, some teams have access to the Athletic Department’s trainers, while others do not. Other teams have fundraising pools to support students struggling to pay out of pocket expenses, while others do not. If the school is choosing to fund club sports teams instead of bringing in more speakers or sending cultural organizations to conferences, all teams must have equal opportunities. For those teams that compete at the varsity level and receive the most resources, the College should consider making their varsity status official. Participating at the varsity level, sailing and crew compete against teams that are funded by their schools’ administrations; perhaps Middlebury should follow suit. Teams that demonstrate low participation numbers should not be funded through the student activities fee that places the financial burden of a select few on the general student population.
If the committee does not come up with its own solution, a plan introduced by Finance Committee Chair Aaron de Toledo will take effect. De Toledo’s proposal creates funding caps for club teams by creating three tiers. Tier one sports – men and women’s water polo, men and women’s crew, sailing and the equestrian team – are ones that the are uniquely expensive or whose coaches are paid for by the College. Tier two sports – quidditch, men’s volleyball, cycling, fencing and ultimate frisbee – do not have coaches but compete against other schools. Tier three teams – badminton and figure skating – do not compete. The plan would cap the tier one sports at $410 per person, tier two at $307.50 and tier one at $205 – all in an attempt to find a balance between equality and meeting the teams’ needs. De Toledo’s plan also proposes a College-sponsored financial aid pool, so that all students who want to participate have the chance to do so. The Campus calls on the SGA to reconsider de Toledo’s plan or one like it going forward.
We recognize that the administration may not be able to take on club programs as an additional cost. Nonetheless, the College should at least reexamine its budget to see if there any funds that could be reallocated, or consider external funding sources such as team-driven fundraising or alumni donations. Neither the current system nor the plan put forth by de Toledo are ideal, and we expect both the Finance Committee and the SGA to make difficult decisions. At this time, The Campus believes that charging the entire student body is not a sustainable model, especially considering the rising costs. We would like to see our Student Activities budget supporting programs that benefit everyone, not just self-selected individuals.