Student Senate fights to eliminate KU Athletics Title IX and non-revenue sports fee
- Feb. 18, 2014
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University of Kansas students are required to pay the semesterly $25 student fee to offset travel expenses for women’s and non-revenue sports. Students pay between $1.2 and $1.3 million annually to the athletic department fund through the current fee.
The Senate’s responsibility to help finance Title IX, a federal law, was a main question of senators. Tetwiler pointed to the Senate’s earlier decision to forgo funding a federally required accessibility ramp at Strong Hall. The Senate questioned if students should pay for the University to meet government standards.
“Our opinion is that that’s not a responsibility of student fees,” Tetwiler said.
The committee recommended two different options to a separate Student Senate Fee Review Committee: That the student fee be eliminated entirely, or that the fee be lowered from $25 a semester to $20.
The $20 recommendation came based on a 2004 contract signed by former student body President Andrew Knopp and former Athletic Director Lew Perkins that guaranteed a fee of $20 or more until at least the year 2020. David Catt, the chairman of the Women’s and Non-Revenue Intercollegiate Sports Advisory Board, who voted on the recommendation, disputed the validity of the contract.
“Within the past three weeks, conversations with both law professors and practicing attorneys outside of the University of Kansas structure have indicated that the document is non-binding in any way and merely reflects what two people acting out of their power thought a decade ago,” Catt said in an email to the Kansan.
Catt compiled a critical review of the fee. His report ends with the recommendation to eliminate the fee, which other members of the Advisory Board have agreed to.
“Is it the responsibility of 24,000 students to pay for Title IX compliance for a corporation?” Student Senate graduate affairs director Pantaleon Florez III asked during the meeting.
Florez asked the question after KU Athletics representatives explained why the fee exists. KU Athletics CFO Pat Kaufman and senior associate athletic director Debbie Van Saun helped clarify financial information and added insight from the Athletic Department’s point of view.
Van Saun, Kaufman and two female student athletes focused on what the fee does to ensure that KU Athletics meets Title IX equality requirements for equal travel among sports teams.
Katy Evans, a former Kansas rower and current tutor for KU Athletics, said the fee is essential to keeping the quality of travel equal among sports teams.
“This fee has allowed for gender equality between sports,” Evans said.
The Athletics Department spent $6,601,009 on travel expenses in 2013. It isn’t clear how much of that money was spent on women’s and non-revenue sports. KU Athletics revenues totaled $93.6 million during the same year. In 2012, the fee accounted for 1.6 percent of KU Athletics’ total revenue.
The Senate also questioned KU Athletics’ multi-million dollar revenues and whether the Athletics Department needs the $1.2 to $1.3 million of student fee revenue collected by the fee to help support its travel expenses.
During the meeting, Catt asked if Athletics could appropriate money from other sources to account for the fee, should that income disappear for the department.
“We’ll have to find a way someway, somewhere, somehow to cover it,” Kaufman said. “The bottom line is: It will put a damper on our ability to cover these costs.”
“It’s very difficult to get donations that are earmarked for women and non-revenue sports and that’s why this fee has become so important,” Van Saun added.
Kaufman said the Athletic Department might have to consider “looking” at the $150 student ticket package if the student fee is eliminated.
In 2008, Senate was one vote shy of eliminating the fee. According to a Lawrence Journal-World report, Lew Perkins said he would maintain the price of the $150 student ticket package as long as the student fee remained unchanged.
Four senators voted for the measure to eliminate the fee, while two voted against it. Five senators voted to move the fee to $20.
The Senate’s vote is simply a recommendation to the Fee Review Committee, which will make an additional recommendation before Senate takes final action on the issue.
Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little can then veto a proposed change — or elimination — of the fee.
“Athletics is a big dollar business and there’s a lot of big dollar amounts,” Kaufman said. “I’m not going to apologize for it, it’s kind of the business that we’re in.”