The University of Wisconsin’s Teaching Assistants’ Association has called for an increased level of support from UW Athletics for funding a plan to overhaul Recreational Sports facilities.
As the vote nears on the Rec Sports Master Plan, which includes updates and renovations to the Southeast Recreational Facility, the Natatorium and the Near East and Near West Fields, the TAA called for UW Athletics to foot half the bill for any Rec Sports updates in a statement Friday.
UW Athletics has promised $7 million to the project, which costs a total of $223 million. Rec Sports has obtained a variety of other outside funding, but students will be responsible for 57 percent of the project cost.
Currently, UW students are paying $36.78 in segregated fees to Rec Sports, though that would increase to $144.78 in 2017 if the referendum were passed, the statement said. If the referendum fails, students will see Rec Sports segregated fees increase to $83.56 in the short term, it said.
The UW Men’s and Women’s Swimming and Diving teams are the only athletics teams that use Rec Sports facilities, Rec Sports Director John Horn said. If the referendum is passed, the teams would only continue to use the SERF, he said.
If the referendum is passed, the existing pool in the SERF would be brought up to standards at a cost of about $3.5 to $4 million, which would be split equally between UW Athletics and Rec Sports, Horn said. The remaining funding from athletics, about $5 million, would be directed toward the Natatorium, he said.
Horn said while Rec Sports has met with the TAA several times, he had not expected this response from them. Horn said it is important to remember that Rec Sports and UW Athletics are two separate departments with separate funding streams.
“TAA is asking a campus partner to fund a huge portion of this budget. It would be like us going to the School of Business or the College of Letters and Science and asking them to fund half of our Master Plan,” Horn said.
Co-President of TAA Michael Billeaux said while they understood that UW Athletics did not necessarily use the facilities, the point was that someone who had the money for it should pay for the project.
In 2010 the TAA led an opposition group against NatUp, but Billeaux said this time Rec Sports has had a more transparent process and has made a good attempt to find alternate funding sources.
Billeaux said the TAA has not taken an official position on the referendum but supports updated facilities. Regardless of the outcome on the referendum, Billeaux said segregated fees would be going up.
Billeaux said TAA wanted to offer an alternative rather than having Rec Sports rely on increasing the burden on students. Raising segregated fees reduces accessibility and affordability to campus, he said.
“[Segregated fees are] often a too easy way to get increased tuition in a back door manner,” Billeaux said.
In a Cap Times article, Associate Athletic Director Justin Doherty said the athletics department just completed a four-facility project that cost $125 million. The athletic department does not have unlimited resources and is not in a position to assist with the level of funding the TAA has proposed, he said.
Co-President of TAA Charity Schmidt said it was important to remember that UW students helped bail out the athletics program in the early 1990s. UW Athletics has been a common thread the campus community has contributed to, whether it is by buying tickets or Bucky merchandise, she said.
“We see Rec Sports in the same way. We think it’s time Athletics support the students,” Schmidt said. “Health and wellness and fitness on campus is super important and we think Athletics has an interest in that.”