Editorial: The questions we must ask about club sports initiatives

Editorial Board

The Club Sports referendum has recently resurfaced after failing last spring. In April, undergraduate students voted to decide whether club sports should join the Student Presidents’ Roundtable. Had the referendum been supported, an Intercollegiate Club Athletics Board would have been established, funded by 6.5 percent of the total student activity fee fund. However, the referendum did not receive the necessary votes—with 766 votes in the affirmative and 889 in the negative—and Club Sports seems to be trying again this semester, instead as an ad hoc committee of University Student Government (USG). 

Club sports can be beneficial. Requiring no recruitment and significantly less of a commitment, club sports are supposed to be open to any student interested in joining a group based around a specific physical activity. They offer a community, incentive to exercise and are typically cheaper and easier to join than either varsity sports or programs at a local gym.

As every student pays $202 every semester for an activity fee—allocated to help fund clubs and programs on campus that are open to all students—it is important that we carefully consider referendums that determine how our money is used. 

The transition from referendum to a USG ad hoc committee does not affect students nearly as much as redistribution of the activity fee. 

However, the destiny of this transition does seem cloudy at best as USG and Club Sports try to negotiate a solution. What should be maintained as the process continues, however, are efforts to offer club sport opportunities to all students, and prioritize them at the same level as other club programs. 

Among the problems with the original referendum, the two most blaring were how it may have disproportionately supported the “ultra-competitive” club sports and defunded other non-athletic clubs. These ultra-competitive sports include crew, ultimate frisbee, cycling and hockey, which have more equipment, travel and additional expenses. 

While there is a belief that the sports who perform better should subsequently receive more funding, there may be more to this seemingly-surface argument. For instance, are these clubs really available to all students, or is prior experience necessary? And if the latter is the case, this may mean having been able to pay hundreds of dollars—if not more—for equipment and training while in high school. Requiring such experience undeniably marginalizes students based on their socioeconomic status, predominantly offering opportunities to those who are more financially secure.

Additionally, we must ensure adequate funding is distributed to other club programs, including those which may be more humanities-related, such as the University Media Board (UMB) and the Class Officer Collective. Including nearly a dozen organizations, the UMB supports radio, journalism, music, photography and political initiatives. 

While it is disappointing that Club Sports did not start with the petition to become a USG ad hoc committee and instead challenged the student activity fee allocation, the new proposal may be more successful in helping them achieve their desired raise. Furthermore, the embarrassing lack of transparency in the spring referendum should still be addressed before club sports receive additional funding. That is, a failure to accurately present how the increased funds would be distributed both among the different club sports and how each specific sport would use the money. 

Like many other things happening on campus, and in our community, it is important that we ask for the details to make an informed decision and ensure we are supporting—both financially and socially—initiatives that provide opportunities for students to pursue interests, may they be major-related or otherwise, across all disciplines.