Armed with life jackets, kayak paddles and posters, supporters of the recreation department joined together for a “Protect the Rec” campaign on May 20. About 45 recreation student staff members and supporters marched from the East Field House to Kerr Hall.
“We’re here for a twofold,” said Laurel Levin, alumna and recreation department trip leader. “One reason being just to celebrate the recreation department. It is an incredible community space that many have benefited from, and we want it to continue to be accessible to students. The other reason is to present Blumenthal with our four requests.”
Crafted by the Protect the Rec campaign, the four requests include financial transparency, a reconsideration of the miscellaneous fee packet rejection, OPERS student representation on the Student Committee on Committees and a written guarantee from Athletics and OPERS administration of the recreation department’s longevity.
Student staff members of the recreation department launched the Protect the Rec campaign in response to the financial threat the department will face in the 2019-20 academic year. Each year, departments campuswide that charge students for services must submit a miscellaneous fee packet to receive permission to continue charging.
This year, Vice Chancellor of Business and Administrative Services Sarah Latham rejected the department’s miscellaneous fee packets, citing complications with submission timing. The packets were submitted late by Director of Athletics and OPERS Sue Harriman, who discovered financial inaccuracies and disorganization included in them.
The rejection of these fees forces the recreation department to offer their yearly trips and classes free of charge for the following academic year. However, Chancellor Blumenthal has the power to overturn this rejection. Despite Harriman’s assurance of the recreation department’s ability to manage a year without charging students, members of the Protect the Rec campaign and others campuswide fear what this will do to the recreation department.
Despite the financial burden, participants showed high spirits throughout the protest. Organizers from the recreation department handed out community agreements and a list of chants before the march to Kerr Hall.
“This community is truly built by people from varying backgrounds,” said fourth-year and recreation department receptionist Carly Cheap. “We have such a dynamic and diverse group of people who are able to come together to have fun and love the outdoors.”
The Protect the Rec campaign compiled 215 personal testimonies from students, alumni and community members in a binder to give to Chancellor Blumenthal. Their four requests laid atop the testimonies.
In addition to explaining their motives, the Protect the Rec protest kicked off with a large and playful introduction circle in “typical recreation department fashion,” joked the organizers.
Though short in distance, the march was filled with smiles and music, including a remastered version of John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” tailored to represent the recreation department’s financial situation.
Interim Campus Provost/Executive Vice Chancellor Lori Kletzer sat outside as the protesters filed in front of Kerr Hall.
“I was delighted to be out here today and to be a part of the demonstration in support of the recreation department,” Kletzer said. “I told the students that I am committed to convey to the requests to the chancellor and to working together to ensure the stability and longevity of the recreation department.”
The protesters left Kerr Hall feeling satisfied and eager to hear how Blumenthal will respond to their request.
“I’ve been with the recreation department for four years and have made countless relationships with both students and supervisors,” Cheap said. “What we all want is for longevity of this program, so that other students can feel the magic that everyone here has experienced in their own time at the recreation department.”
Protect the Rec. campaign requests of Chancellor Blumenthal:
1. “A complete financial transparency of Athletics and Recreation Account Ledgers. Specifically, we are requesting five years of financial ledgers to be released from Business Administration Services and an external audit to be done to understand how Measure 26 accumulated a nearly $300,000 carry forward as indicated by the Student Fee Advisory Committee (SFAC). This would help keep consistency for the financials of OPERS at large now and moving forward.”
2. “For you, Chancellor Blumenthal, to request to revisit the Recreation Department’s originally submitted fee packets and reconsider the decision made to allow for the Recreation Department to charge for miscellaneous fees for 2019-2020. Through conversations with SFAC and SUA, we are concerned that there may be possible discrepancies between the original packets created and those that were delivered to Sarah Latham.”
3. “For there to be student representation by employees of Athletics and Recreation, on the committee for Student Committee on Committees, and answers as to why Athletics and Recreation administration has been making decisions without student involvement. We want appropriate student involvement to be implemented by next school year (2019-2020) to ensure no conflicts of interest.”
4. “For Athletics and Recreation administration to provide in writing a guarantee to the longevity and viability of the Recreation Department after a year without Miscellaneous fees being charged. Specifically to be put in writing where funding is coming from, how it will be allocated, where cuts will be made and a complete picture of the financial operations for school year 2019-2020.”