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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

“The Rec: pool full of money, climbing wall out of pit of debt”

A handful of campus dignitaries cut the ribbon on the new Student Recreation Center expansion on Tuesday, marking the official opening of the facility. A perfunctory circle-jerk followed. “”It’s amazing to think about the planning that went into this center,”” Melissa Vito, the UA vice president for student affairs, was quoted as saying in a previous article (“”Rec center cuts the ribbon,”” Feb. 23) in the Daily Wildcat. “”When I look at this center, I see something that has not only raised the bar, but created a new standard for the 21st-century recreation center.”” Associated Students of the University of Arizona president Chris Nagata jumped on board, saying “”This would not be a reality without the support of students.”” Both of these things may be true, but regardless, the new Rec Center expansion has been a massive and unwarranted extravagance

The construction of the new facility cost $28.5 million. This is not a small figure from any perspective. And considering UA President Robert Shelton’s new tuition and fee recommendations, which call for an increase in base tuition of $1,450 for in-state students, and $2,000 for out-of-state students, it seems downright absurd.

Shelton’s recommendations include a $306 health and recreation fee, which will support the Rec Center and Campus Health Services. Said Kris Kreutz, director of administrative services for Campus Health, in a previous Wildcat article (“”Rec Center seeks support for new fee,”” Feb. 11), “”We can’t survive and provide the services we currently provide without this fee.””

Maybe so. But perhaps students would rather be offered fewer services than pay such exorbitant tuition and fees. The Rec Center and Campus Health tout the support they have received from students and parents regarding the fee increase. As the fee article notes, “”out of roughly 4,600 e-mailed surveys to parents, 78 percent were either slightly or very supportive of increasing the fee. These results were based on an 11 percent response rate. Close to 36,000 surveys were e-mailed to students and 64 percent said they were in favor of the fee, based on a 13 percent response rate.”” Even disregarding the unbelievably low response rates from which the Rec Center claims to derive its expansionist mandate, these surveys were conducted before news broke of next year’s massive prospective tuition increase, which might have changed some tunes.

Much ink has also been spilled on the “”green”” status of the expansion. The center received a Gold Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating from the U.S. Green Building Council, and only “”one point away”” from Platinum status (Rec expansion gets Green honors, Nov. 24, 2009) Fine. But unless it uses a negative amount of energy — if so, someone notify the physics department — it’s still an unnecessary expenditure of funding and energy.

Administration apparatchiks have done their best to steer the focus of the Rec Center debate away from financial concerns. We have been assured that the facility is state-of-the-art, that the student population is overwhelmingly in favor of the expansion, that it’s super-green, and various other buzzwords. But the more important, fundamental questions go unanswered. No students really needed a state-of-the-art recreation center, certainly not as much as many of us need the money. And, despite student support, it was the wrong move to begin such an expensive project as the university struggles with an unprecedented budgetary crisis. Unfortunately, we’re stuck with it. Enjoy your tuition.

— Ben Harper is a philosophy senior.  He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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