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NATUp 2010 Referendum Debate

April 8, 2010

NATUp 2010 Referendum Debate-brought to you by Shared Governance Committee.

Sorry ladies and gentleman-after wandering around the mess that is Humanities and being directed to different rooms and changes…I managed to find the room right as the debate started.

My computer decided to be wonderfully in-cooperative as well, so I managed to miss the opening statements of both groups. However! Several other news sources were present, so Im sure you’ll be able to garner that information from them.

Visualize this:

Sitting in the back of a crowded room. To your left are rows of brilliantly red t-shirt clad supporters of NATUp. To your right and in front of you are not so brightly dressed but as distinctly recognized students opposed to the referendum.

Behind you is a camera you are trying to duck down and avoid….as well as infamous Jason Smathers blogging at speeds that rival your own.

At the front of the room, 3 NATUp-supporting students (left to right: Dan, Kaitlin, and Mike), the moderator Ben Beduhn in the middle and to the right the opposition (Jasmine, Peter, and Alex) *

Arguments:

NATUp: Essentially they claim to have 8 years of studies and huge student support to raise segregated fees, starting in Fall 2013, to $54.19/semester ($108/year) for approximately 30years to fund the renovation of the Natatorium. This will enable the “Student Life Facility” to help enhance the student experience of going to this prestigious institution.

Opposition: Agreed that the building is in a state that needs renovation, and agrees that it will be done, but should NOT be funded through the use of segregated fees and students should NOT set the precedent for increasing segregated fees of future students, but instead should look elsewhere (Ie: Private donors, state funding) to alleviate cost concerns and pay for renovations.

DEBATE:

(My sincerest apologies for things I missed….such as whatever the first question was…which you can infer by the provided answers.)

Opposition: It is a question of priorities at this univerisity. We’re in a time of crisis. Tough choices to make. Teaching, outreach. What are we going to be serving? Academics? Keep the focus on access of education. When students focus on tough choices to be made-we are committed to keeping the university for education access and academics to be the top priority.

NATUp:

(Dan)

Accusation that students weren’t informed of the price is simply not true. Large boards with the price of HOW MUCH and WHEN the segregated fee increase would occur were available at all tabling events.

We’re all here because of academice excellence. Sounds like people think that the facilities wouldn’t affect the quality of the educational expereince.

There would be a minimum of 5-7 multipurpose spaces..

Right now, one whole floor of the SERF dedicated to ‘squash boards’. which apparently was big decades ago.  By installing multi-purpose activity spaces, it allows student organizations to have a place to use without being turned down.

Allows for winter sports, winter activities to have a place to continue to train and compete in Winter months.

QUESTION: Are we justified in increasing seg fees or are there other ways to find funding? …(Something else about faculty and state-mandated furloughs that I missed…)

NATUp:

(Kaitlin)-Faculty and furloughs-that is a state-mandate. This issue should not be brought up at this forum. Should be brought up at legislation not at this forum for students. That is for Human Resource departments. That’s not what we are here to discuss. We are here to discuss seg fees for students. We are bringing this vote to all students. They will decide “DEMOCRATICALLY’ if it is important to them. It is a sutdent life facility. State will provide proportional funding to the academic classes that will take place there.

Is it justified? It is the democratic process and the sudents will decide themselves at elections.

Opposition:

(Alex) We brougth this to the state legislature. Already 20% funded by state revenue. They said “Its easy for us to cut funding by making it up in tuition and fees.”

We cant afford more tuition and fees. Voting NO makes that message loud and clear.

By saying “we aren’t here to discuss faculty furloughs and class sizes..” Well, we are here to discuss this. This is not unlimited money. We have a wallet. Decide what to use it for-burrito or ring…not saying Natup is a ‘boxing ring’.

Also, as a ‘democratic process‘-…how much money has RecSports and administration put into this campaign? Not a democratic process when there only is a certain amount at their disposal.

Alot of ins and lotta outs to this. There needs to be more discussion and other ways to fund it. This isnt isolated- not just RecSports and administration– its a community.

Moderator-Students before us have committed to UHS, Union etc; is it our responsiblity to ensure we do these things for future students?

Opposition:

(Jasmine)-Yes. It is. But this is about the funds and fees. We just started paying for Union South building project. It’s too much money going to capital building projects. Should be going to other things that campus can be offering to students. I’m all for nat but its not something students should be paying for. Should have come with private donors ready! Not us first and then try to find them.

(Alex)-This is one more referendum in a line that goes back into the past and clearly goes into the future-if they will be funded by seg fees..it will continue to increase not just every 5 years but every year! We can’t afford to set a precedent for this. Where does it end? It’s a slippery slope argument. Are we making a decsion about the Nat here and now? Or about the future and incresase of seg fees?

NATUp:

(Mike)-Student seg fees have doubled ONCE in the past 5 years. Not an increase every 5 yrs. Absolutely responsibity of students to do this. Student life facilities and services need these funds. Until recently, they hadn’t been increased in the past 30 years. These types of proposals are voted on in these referendums. Academic space is funded by the University. These are are for students.

$1 Millionwill be from RecSports.  They subsdize $3.7Million by the state; about 6% of the building will be by Athletics. $.5M University will fund. Professors and academics is reflected in tuition. these are student life facitlites that studetns have a say in wehteher they want. We are working hard in overcoming inflammoartiy statemsnt about this.

In the last few years, there have been major hikes in segregated fees-will these fees limit students opportunities to access to an education?

NATUp:

-Additional costs will not. Tuition will be $21,283/ year for Wisconsin students and  $38,330/year out of state. All of which are necesary costs.

-The seg fees will be an extra .005% increase (Wisconsin students) and .002% (out of state)–its only $108 increase. Over 32,ooo use the facilities, approximately 80% of campus. Student lives will be enriched …won’t make or break students opportunity to attend this univeristy.

Opposition:

(Jasmine)

I understand where you are coming from. The amount of tuition to attend is the decision students have to make here. Do you really know how far $108 goes? For a college student it goes really far! It goes a long way when you add it to what you’re paying right now. I have to make students who are coming in after me tack it on?

(Alex)– It is going to hurt the university down the line. Peers that have adequate facilites..tuition going up year after year…come to madison because there is a reputation for excellent education and excellent facilities. I don’t disagree they need work. But it’s going up $108/yr for 30 yrs! It will compound. It rises to a rate that pushes how fast tuition and inflation rise. Rises 9%! Another $108, another $54/ semester…it’s going to go deeper and deeper and wont stop.

(Peter)-Dramatic increase in tuition and seg fees is compromising education.

Students complain at the state of our facilities, but at what point do we take it upon ourselves to improve them?

(Jasmine)-We have the state help pay for it! We need to act/do it now. It’s something we want but we shouldn’t be paying ffor it. Tuition is expensive. Maybe then we should all go work at the Nat. There are different ways to invest and renovate every time something isn’t good enough.  There are so many building projects- the Education building is being done by private donors. That’s how we should invest by finding other ways, finding other donors.

(Peter)-There are buildings we need to pay attentio to for educational reasons first. There is a disconnect btwn what the University is saying its priorities are and how they are going about getting money for it. I think the state could have been asked to help fund this. Students have been asked FIRST. That is a dangerous precedent that we need to address and stop now.

NATUp:

(Dan)– I hear your concerns on rising tuition. There isn’t anything we can do about rising tuition. We could use our vote in the next govenors race. Here we are about seg fees. Used for STUDENT LIFE BUILDINGS.  You’re concerned about “slippery slope” but seg fees are for SLB!. Students complaining about the state of our facilities; they aren’t new…I brought a bunch of studies with me:

-2002: Students say they don’t have adequate buildings. <something about UW-Eau Claire agreeing???>

2004-RecSports approached SSFC for a $26,000 grant for assessments. Granted. Findings that we are short in utilities spaces. Other reports echoing that.

2005S surveyed by a business course where students said facilities are  ‘dark dungeon-like’, ’30min workout takes 2 hrs.’

Whether time is now…6,600 students have said they are interested NOW. It would cost $54/semester…if we wait 5-10 years who knows what it could be then…

Student particpation in elections tends to be very low. Should small voter-turnout group determine 10% increase in seg fees?

NATUp:

(Kaitlin)-NATUp’s desire to see increased participation in elections, as shown in NATUp efforts. Over 6,000 students in support… we created a website showing every detail about the project. Frequent meetings, submitted letters to the editors of The Badger Herald and The Daily Cardinal giving opportunities to hear both sides. Facebook events. Every single one of our activities has been done to educate students about the vote-With one goal to get that voter turnout and get this referundum passed. Whether or not a few thousand should be allowed to determine increase….less than 10% voter turnout at the previous elections this week for County Board…do we make them re-campaign since so few turned out? We are saying we should absolutely consider a few thousand votes to determine this. The votes cast will be the direct students -enthusiasm to participate and weigh in on this vote. We can not, will not must, not ignore these students….They will vote for it etc….

Opposition:

(Alex) You said the initial proposition that RecSports approcached SSFC..shouldn’t it be the other way around? Every example they have mentioned have been to educate about the vote…this is a tactic…no context about what’s in it, nothing about the vote itself. Democracy isn’t just a simple yes or no. It’s talking to students. Democracy consists of ‘Do you want this? Well, this is how much. Are you in favor of this?”— The claim that students were with NATUp every part of the way I just don’t see. I see administration has a master plan-paid by seg fees. Wants to buildcertain buildings…and so then they approach the students. Certain things administration and RecSports wants to put through- what to do and they came to students to validate it. Should votes of a few determine?

No! Need input from all campus. Widest discussion possible. It’s about student power. Manifesting in a very limited sense here.  No. The broadest discussion possible is needed.

(Peter)-We should be proud of 9% for the County Board elections. And we should seek to have a more robust democratic process. Need real student input at all steps of the way.

AUDIENCE QUESTIONS

Q1-If referendum fails how does University plan to pay for renovations?

OPPOSITION

(Jasmine)-It will be up to them. They will have to do the work to find a way. Once it fails, means its no longer the burden of students. They will need to look for their own private donors.

(Peter) We will see more referendums coming at us to vote for this till they get what they want. Students need to send as loud a voice as possible. University needs to go to other sources FIRST. Setting precedent as students being first option…no we want to move away from that. I don’t know how they’re going to fund it but they should have found a different way to fund it up front.

NATUp:

(Dan)-If students vote it down, we’ll live with that decision. No back-end deals. If they decide we’ll live with that. But I have to stress–this is a project that will get done. One way or another we’re going to need new facilities on this campus.

We’re going to have increased enrollment. That’s going to continue. Not going to change. Students will have to deal with overcrowding…

(Mike)-If it does fail, this is an issue that alot of students care about. Those concerns aren’t going away. Buildings only get older. Machines won’t get better. That’s why you’ll see continued referendum coming down for it. Since 2002 it’s been students coming to RecSports saying ‘listen these facilities aren’t getting it done, how can we get some better ones? That’s worth it to them to get some drastically different facilities.

(Dan)-Time for good value on this proect is right now.

Q2-If this referendum is voted down, what steps will NATUp take to continue the project?

NATUp:

(Mike)-If it’s voted down, I won’t be here on campus to take up the cause but there are lots of people who will. They will do what they have to. I can’t answer what students will do in the future. Thousands interested in it and I don’t see that stopping.

Opposition:

(Jasmine)-Once you start at $54.19, you can’t decrease them. You choose to take the max, you can no longer decrease those, that number. It will stick no matter what private donors they find.

(Alex)-If it is voted down, I hope that administration finds ways that are not thru students to go ahead and fund the project for a renovated Nat. I would hope NATUp doesn’t do anything fishy…they said they wouldn’t  and I’m not implicating them at all..sounded worse then I meant. I mean, we’re all students here, we all have same concerns. S’tudents will be glad they arent paying that much more. There was a comment on our website, someone saying that- In 10yrs, I’ll be proud to walk to someone on the street and say “I saved you $400″…I would be proud of it too, if the referendum fails.

(Peter)-Nat will be rebuilt regardless of where the funding comes from. I dont think anyone should be scared into voting for this if they want the building if they think it wont get replaced. It will! We need full-fledged discussion with administration and faculty. These things will happen we need to say just not from student seg fees.

Q3-Are there other bodies that could more appropriately attribute to the funding of this program?

(Jasmine)-This is a part of the atheltic department. We don’t know who exactly wanted to start this project..

(Alex)-I’m not sure if there is one body that has the funds to do these renovations. There is a body that has the funds to pay for elements of NATUp and these funds come from RecSports, private donors, – it’s not like-may not be able to pay for whole of renovations-but they had funds to pay extensively for the campaign for these renovations. There is a dedicated body of people who wants this to happen.

$54Million is alot for a gym or anything else. I don’t know where it’s going to come from. I’m not looking at the UW budget. It’s not our responsibility to come up with that plan right now. We can say clearly we don’t want to pay that with our seg fees. When major projects have happened in the past, has been available with private donors with vast amount of buildings here. Otherwise we continue down that path of de-facto privitization. Dont know where but we do know it can happen.

NATUp:

(Dan)-Private donors-currently none have been found. These are tough economic times. The notion, however, that a private donor will write a blank check for the building..won’t happen. One private door won’t step up. As far as state government funding, they only fund capital building projects. There is a portion of the building that will be paid by them. Private donations have been sought for and will contiunue to be. They will be used to reduce the cost if found.

(Mike)-This didn’t get dreamt up by athletic board. This is about students. Talking about $60Million dollar facility. It’s not going to come from revenue budgets. State doesn’t have the money to just give us this new building! Talking to students who have said they are willing to pay that ..There are thousands of students on campus that do.

(Kaitlin)-You talked about the t-shirts, and the funds RecSports had for the campaign. It was education for students. All the promo material…doesnt tell you how to vote. It tells you where to find the information…..

Q4-engineering students are paying some differential tuition on their programs..no student wants to pay more…but it’s done to increase quality of life here…the new facility would be a method of stress relief..with increased demand in our facilities…what impact is this going to have on the mental health of our student body?

NATUp:

(Dan)-I know about the increase for engineers. I agree with general premise of the statement. Increase in seg fees…students feel this will benefit them with better experience: overall equipment, space etc. Funds alot programs.

(Mike) -Impact on mental health-we have a study here on all benefits of having access to adequate facilities…mental health, motivation, even right down to metabolism. Absolutely having better facilities means having better students. Regular fitness routine ultimately benefits your brain.

Opposition:

(Peter)-This isn’t about the Nat or a gym-this is about seg fees. No one will say we shouldn’t have adequate facilites. Its going to happen. But should it be paid by seg fees?! The differential tuition by engineers reiterates that we need to prioritize academics. Engineering differential tuition is to uphold the excellence of their programs. We should be prioritizing academics…Im not certain if that’s the right way to do it. But shouldn’t be increasing seg fees. Prioritize academics..looking at fact that renovating the Nat will happen regardless but just NOT  through seg fee

(Jasmine)– I really believe in it. I want my student life to be enhanced–but it will be more stressful to worry about paying for it! Think its crowded now? Wait till they start construction; will be more stressed than you are now.

(Alex)-You need money for things. Food helps body and you need a place to sleep. Money out of students pockets means they can’t buy food, can’t pay rent. It’s not a little bit for students, it’s alot. We aren’t against exercise…I believe exercise helps certain things. Not against that. Just against how it’s paid for.

Closing statements.

Opposition:

(Jasmine)-Re-emphasize that… you think it’s horrible now..?

(Peter)-We’ve had a chance to discuss things here. I don’t have a big closing statement. Just keep in mind this is a referendum on priorities. Whether or not we want the public institution to remain so in name and deed. Its about capital projects not just an islolated piece. This project will happen. But seg feees and tuition skyrocketing..we can’t afford that. Time for students to stand up and say no! Our university needs to make tough choices in the budget. Opportunity for us to say not to increase seg fees. University needs to listen to what the concerns are.

This is about priorities, about education and about real student democracy.

NATUp:

(Mike)-These guys have acknowledged the need for a new Nat, but provided zero solutions for how to pay for it. That’s not good enough. We’re not going to wait for someone to drop $60Million to pay for this. There are enough students on campus that are for this, that will will pay for it because they want it and are ready for it.

(Dan)-Over last 8 years homework has been done. Professionally and student run. Demands have been made-dark dungeon-like, overcroweded. As an institution that prides itself on ecellence. They deserve to be heard…<site numbers> fitness and healthy mind and body…6600 students have supported this and volunteers have worked hard to educate. We believe this master plan will help…<talking fast> current facility not designed for student interests…while students don’t agree it should be considered on it’s own merits.

$54.19  in Fall 2013. Is it good? Yes. We urge to move forward and not delay this problem. Future students will aprecitate what we have achieved on their behalf.

And there you have it folks. End of debate. Both sides delivered very valid points. So how will YOU decide? Elections will be next week, April 12-14th with on-line ballots.

Points of contention? Using/increasing student seg fees for a much needed building—but voting on a referendum in an election that traditionally has had low voter turn-out.

What will be the outcome?….well, that’s anyone’s best guess.

Let me do a little subtle persuasion here….

VOTE!

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