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UI officials burden the student body with mandatory fitness fee

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | JULY 14, 2009 7:15 AM

Starting in the fall of 2010, all students will be charged a $219 fee for use of campus fitness facilities — regardless of whether the students actually want to work out at such locations.

The winners, of course, are students interested in regular workouts at such facilities as the Field House or the soon-to-be Campus Recreation and Wellness Center. The losers will be students who seldom use such resources or who do not use them at all, either by choice or because of physical impediment. Still, because UI officials have bypassed student choice and decided each student should have to pay the fee, we should all take advantage of our campus’s fitness opportunities.

It is unfair for university officials to impose this fee on students for numerous reasons. First, we’re already subject to ever-increasing tuition and fees, which are a significant burden for students and their families; the amount families need to shell out in order to attend the UI has risen steadily over the past decade. Students face not only increasing financial burdens but also limited options to pay for them, because the credit crunch has wiped out all but a few options for financial loans, and the sour and sluggish economy has made it harder to obtain private scholarships. This mandatory fitness fee increases that burden for the students. The $219 charge isn’t small, either. In fact, the fitness fee will be one of the biggest charges applicable to all students.

The mandatory membership also restricts a student’s options for fitness and wellness management. It might make more sense to charge a student-wide, mandatory fee for use of the Field House if a solid majority actually worked out there on a regular basis. However, only about half of students do. That leaves roughly half the population with a $219 gym membership they probably won’t use. That’s $219 less in their budget to seek out fitness opportunities better suited to their individual needs.

The new facility surcharge is also a significant increase in current optional membership fees. Starting in the fall of 2010, all students will have almost unlimited use of all recreation facilities on campus, as well as fitness classes and pool access. The Fitness Pass currently runs for $80 per semester — significantly less than the yet-to-be-implemented fitness fee — and provides everything except pool access and exercise classes. Essentially, the new mandatory fee will be very beneficial to those wanting to train hard-core for triathlons or do some intense tai bo. But for those people who only use the gym for a run, the weights or other exercise machines, $219 is a harsh price gouge.

The UI has many reasons for imposing this fee on its students. Harry Ostrander, the director of Recreational Services, said the extra income the department receives will go to pay for upgrades to the Field House and to the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center, which is still under construction. That is admirable, as the aging Field House — which opened in 1927 — has several problem areas, and it would greatly benefit from a few extra dollars for improvements. However, those projects do not justify putting such a heavy burden on students. Fees for services such as that should only be applied to the students who benefit from them.

Additionally, Ostrander justified making the fitness fee mandatory by noting that every other Big Ten school does so. To say, just because everybody else is doing it, we should, too, is a poor excuse. After all, if the UI’s peer institutions all jumped off a bridge, should UI administrators sign us up for the next dive?


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