By Shannon Vicic
Students attending the Urbana-Champaign campus of the UI will pay an extra $34 per semester beginning in January as a result of the UI Board of Trustees unanimously approving an increase in the general fee at its Oct. 9 meeting in Urbana. The three student trustees cast their advisory votes against the item.
The increase will pay for the debt service for renovations to Memorial Stadium as well as the annual cost of repairs and renovations to the stadium and other athletic facilities at the Urbana-Champaign campus.
The Division of Intercollegiate Athletics has been paying $1.2 million annually to the university to pay for $18 million in renovations to the stadium. Because of that financial drain, the DIA passed a deficit operating budget for the 1997-98 academic year.
At the June meeting, Trustee Thomas Lamont of Springfield said the university made "an error in judgment" when it burdened the DIA with payment of the debt service for the stadium rather than funding the debt through the general fee as capital debt for other auxiliary facilities, such as the Illini Union and Assembly Hall, is handled.
The general fee increase will permit the DIA to have a balanced budget by FY 1999, despite approximately $600,000 in start-up costs for women's soccer and softball programs. The university is adding those sports programs to comply with the federal mandate of Title IX.
The board planned to vote on the proposed general fee increase at its July meeting, but postponed it to allow for student input.
During a public comment session at the beginning of the board's Oct. 8 session, several students expressed their opposition to the proposed general fee increase. About 100 students held up signs protesting the fee increase and applauded the student speakers.
Laura Appenzeller, president of Illinois Student Government, presented a position paper on behalf of ISG.
Appenzeller said that students initially had been told that a student advisory board would be appointed and that students would be allowed to vote in a referendum on an athletic fee if the university thought such a fee might be necessary.
"There are many students on this campus who would have been willing to help DIA out in its time of need, but they were not asked," she said. "Instead, 33,000 students are being told they are willing to pay for building renovations that no students ever voted on in 1992 to support with student fees."
Appenzeller said that the Illinois Board of Higher Education's policy on fees recommends that university governing boards appoint a student advisory committee and hold a student referendum before "significantly restructuring" non-instructional fees.
She asked the board to approve the general fee increase as a temporary solution until the spring semester, when the measure could be revised to adhere to IBHE policy and the wishes of students.
Appenzeller also noted that the proposed general fee increase lacked a sunset clause.
Daniel Lillig, a member of the graduate student advisory council and the chancellor's ad hoc committee on the proposed general fee increase, said that increasing the general fee to pay for the DIA debt would amount to rewarding the division for poor financial management.
Before the board voted on the proposed general fee increase during its Oct. 9 session, several trustees addressed issues raised by students at the previous day's meeting.
Lamont said that the deficit problem at the DIA surfaced approximately five years ago and should have been addressed then rather than being allowed to build.
Contrary to the statements of student leaders, the debt service to Memorial Stadium and the university's need to add women's sports programs to comply with Title IX are the primary reasons for the fee increase, Lamont said.
Other alternatives for solving the deficit besides a general fee increase restructuring the DIA or reducing the number of sports programs already have been attempted in the past to solve the problem, he said.
"What alternatives do we have as stewards of this university I submit to you that we have none. And it is a responsibility in which students must share," Lamont said.
Lamont pointed out that the Urbana campus is the only UI campus that does not impose a fee on students to support athletics.
Although the trustees at the meeting supported the general fee increase, several agreed with Lamont that the issue should have been addressed when the problem was identified.
Trustee Judith Ann Calder of Chicago said that the board should have voted on the issue in July rather than waiting for student input.
The university must "balance the books" to preserve its strong credit rating because a strong rating keeps the cost of borrowing lower for the university, Calder said.
Calder added that the university is consistently ranked as one of the best buys in American education, which indicates that the UI has been delivering its product at a much cheaper price than the competition.
Trustee Jeffrey Gindorf of Crystal Lake took issue with the statement in the ISG position paper that the general fee increase has no sunset.
"This is structured as a general fee. It is specifically for Memorial Stadium bond debt. By its very nature it is limited to that alone," he said.
Trustee Judith Reese apologized for earlier remarks she'd made about the general fee increase, including a statement she'd made that the increase would convey the message that the university is a "jock school."
"If one error was made by campus administration, it is that we tried too hard and too long to avoid assessing an athletic fee," Reese said.
Lamont criticized student leaders for taking some of his remarks out of context and misrepresenting some of the facts concerning the general fee increase. But he added that a positive result of the student protests to the general fee increase is that the consultation process with students will be reviewed and reshaped to increase its effectiveness, and the board will explore its decision-making process.
Tuition and Fees Increases
If the board approves proposed tuition hikes for the university's three campuses at its November meeting, tuition at the Urbana-Champaign campus will increase by 3 percent during the 1998-99 academic year.
The increases will help the university meet revenue needs in the face of expected inflationary increases, said Sylvia Manning, UI vice president for academic affairs.
On top of the general increase in tuition at Urbana-Champaign, three programs will see additional tuition increases to pay for their specific needs. Law students will pay an extra $500; MBA students will pay an additional 2 percent; and engineering students will pay an additional $75.
Craig Bazzani, vice president for business and finance, also presented a proposal to increase student fees. The board is expected to vote on that proposal in November, too.
For the 1998-99 academic year, student fees on the Urbana-Champaign campus would increase from $846 to $924, Bazzani said. That increase includes the $68 per year general fee increase that will take effect in January 1998.
Room and board at UIUC will increase 5.4 percent, from $4,710 to $4,962, Bazzani said.
Presentation of the Distinguished Service Medallion
The Board of Trustees presented its Distinguished Service Medallion to state Sen. Stanley Weaver, R-Urbana.
Board Chair Susan Gravenhorst praised Weaver as "a formidable and tireless advocate for higher education generally and for the UI in particular."
Four UI presidents have asked Weaver for guidance and help regarding important issues, UI president James Stukel said.
"When any of us turned to him, he was always there As the educator's legislator, he deserves our everlasting gratitude," Stukel said.
In Other Business
During the public comment session of the Oct. 8 meeting, two students voiced their opposition to the university's use of Chief Illiniwek as its symbol.
Paula Ostrovsky spoke on behalf of the association of Alumni Against Racist Mascots, an organization she helped found. Ostrovsky said that the issue of whether or not the chief is a symbol or a mascot is irrelevant from the real issue of whether the chief is racist.
"We find the chief intrinsically racist and the continuation of its use and its defense by this board an extension of that quality," she said.
Ostrovsky presented a letter calling upon the board to terminate its use of Chief Illiniwek as the university's symbol. The letter was signed by 604 people, including UI alumni, faculty and staff members, and students.
Bill Winneshiek, a junior in applied life studies and a member of the Ho-Chunk tribe, one of the indigenous peoples of Illinois, discussed his heritage.
"The function of our chief is connected to peace, tradition and spirituality," he said.
Winneshiek's great-uncle is the chief of the Ho-Chunk nation, and Winneshiek discussed the cultural significance of the headdress and facial paint worn by a Ho-Chunk chief. He said that the university's "so-called 'chief'" mocked and ridiculed his beliefs.