By I.A. Stewart
Almost one year after students voted to provide increased funding to both the intramural and recreation departments, UC Santa Cruz athletics—the proverbial lone man out—is trying once again to join the party.
Spring referendum Measure 31 proposes to provide varsity teams with extra funds to offset the costs of travel, equipment, and referees. The initiative would charge students $4 per quarter in fees, down from a more ambitious attempt proposed in 2006Â­—$5 per quarter for one year, then $10 per quarter thereafter—when voters passed ballot measures to fund intramural and recreation departments, but not athletics.
“We don’t feel we’re asking for too much,” said Nikki Turner, the women’s basketball coach. “Just a little bit here and there. We’re looking for recognition for the athletic department.”
This time around, athletics will be joined by the Physical Education department in the Spring elections. PE proposed a ballot measure of their own—Measure 32, which would increase student registration fees by $4.50 per quarter—to receive funding for the first time.
Measure 32 would fund additional PE classes, as well as replace old equipment and allow the department to do outreach at colleges to encourage students to become more active.
However, in a controversial move, the initiative would set aside approximately one-third of the funds raised in order to increase the salary of part-time and full time instructors.
Rena Cochlin—who has been teaching physical education at UCSC for 33 years and is the only faculty member in the department—points out that increasing instructor fees is the only way to keep qualified instructors. Staff members are currently being paid below-market wages of $15.22 per hour.
“I don’t feel students should have to pay extra for teacher salaries, classes and equipment,” said Cochlin, an instructor of Pilates, dance and yoga. “But the administration is not giving us any money. It’s an act of desperation.”
Cynthia Mori, the recreation program director for the PE department, agreed that the move to ask students to help pay instructors’ salaries was a last-ditch move.
“Our backs are really against the wall,” Mori said. “Its getting to the point where we’re cutting classes because we can’t afford to hire good staff.”
In order to get both measures on the spring ballot, the departments must raise 200 signature for each as the Student Union Assembly refused to sponsor any referendums that would increase student fees. Student athletes spent the week in front of the Bay Tree Bookstore collecting signatures for their cause.
The athletic department runs on a yearly operating budget of $740,000—far short of comparable athletic programs at rival universities. Many of the teams have been forced to fundraise themselves, starting booster clubs, selling advertisements, and organizing car washes and raffles.
This fall, the women’s soccer team was able to generate $500 by selling tickets to the Radical Reels Film Festival, a yearly event organized by the UCSC Recreation department.
The recreation division, which will be hosting the Banff Mountain Film Festival at the Rio Theatre this weekend, will not seek any additional funding this year after students voted last year to help permanently fund the department.
The department has raised roughly $125,000 through the referendum funding, and most of the money has gone toward the purchase of two new 12-passenger bio-diesel vans and one 15-passenger bus.
In addition, the department is looking to hire a full-time outreach coordinator to research and design recreational trips for dorms and on-campus organizations.
The funds raised by both the referendum measure and by profits from the special events the department sponsors (last year’s Banff Festival raised $9,450) help go toward providing money for students. The proceeds of the film festival go directly to scholarships for the outdoor orientation program, which normally costs $525.
While it is unclear whether students would support an initiative which goes toward instructor salaries, as Measure 32 proposes, Mori maintains that students support the PE department and hope to see it grow.
The department has conducted a survey of roughly 800 students regarding the state of physical education at UCSC, and according to Mori, over 90 percent of those students said they would be willing to pay increased fees for extra PE classes and equipment.
According to Lisa Norris, a UCSC ballet instructor, the PE department has had to turn away over 1,800 students in the past year because there were not enough classes to accommodate everyone.
Staff members within both the Physical Education and athletic departments feel as though they stand a good chance to have their referendum measures voted in, despite the university’s traditionally apathetic stance regarding sports and a recent trend of voting down athletics-related referenda.
Transfer student Bryan Quintero is one student who will vote yes to approve Measure 32.
“[PE] helps you develop different skills than you would in an academic setting,” said Quintero, who has taken five quarters of yoga and is now trying out weight training.
Coach Turner hopes that students will be willing to support varsity athletics, too.
“I think we’re slowly starting to find support for athletics,” Coach Turner said. “And a lot of that comes from the success of so many of our teams.”
Whether or not students choose to help fund PE and athletics out of registration fees, Recreation department head Mark McCarroll says he thinks that the programs should be supported from the top.
“I wish the state would provide more for student affairs, period,” McCarroll said. “[We’ve been] working with the same budget for years while the population has expanded.”
_Melody Chu contributed to this report._