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New rec center will be welcomed by students

BY PETER MCELLIGOTT | JULY 22, 2009 7:15 AM

I am pleased to see that the DI’s Editorial Board is not suggesting that the new UI recreation center is not needed, but I argue instead that the cost-sharing plan and the years of planning the new facility were devised without student input (“UI officials burden the student body with mandatory fitness fee,"DI, July 14). As student-government president when the state Board of Regents gave its initial approval to the project, I can assure you that the premises of the Editorial Board’s complaints are faulty.

Firsthand experience allows me to decisively say that students were not only active participants in bringing the facility to campus, we were the driving force. Years of focus group data have consistently shown that UI students are unhappy with the current facility and that they are willing to pay for a new one. While the proverbial ball on this project started rolling well before I was involved, I had the honor of working with countless students and administrators to hone-in on a facility and a financing structure that would satisfy not only the needs of current students but would give us flexibility in accessing future needs. Having had the privilege of working with the men and women who tirelessly worked to bring this facility to campus, I can tell you that students’ needs were the primary concern of all the parties involved. Far from carelessly spending money, the administrators and numerous student leaders spent countless hours working to make the new facility affordable to all students.

Any increase in tuition or fees is unwelcome news to students. The UI has a proud tradition of remaining affordable, giving students a first-class education regardless of their financial circumstances. But, here is an unavoidable truth: Quality services and facilities for students will inevitably cost students money. Even an extremely generous state such as Iowa cannot foot the bill for everything the UI provides students. If students want more — and they do — they have to pay for it.

I believe it is unwise for the Editorial Board to divide the campus between those who take advantage of a service at the UI and those who do not. It is unwise not simply because a world class institution such as the UI necessitates a campus that widely supports various diverse endeavors. It is an absolute goal of everyone involved with the planning of the new recreational center that it will not only serve the students already using the university’s antiquated facilities, but that it might inspire more students to choose an active and healthy lifestyle. The new recreation center is the UI’s best tool in the fight against underage and binge drinking. The new facility will not only offer more space, activities, equipment, and services, it will also stay open later than the current facilities, providing a late-night alternative to downtown, another chief desire of student’s at the UI. The hope for this new facility is not that it become a refuge of the university’s most physically fit, but that the centrally located facility becomes a center of student life.

Undoubtedly, some students will not use the recreational facility. Their $219 will go to improving the lives of their fellow students and the future of the UI. Similar to research grants, campus concerts, computer labs, and even the DI, not every student will use what they pay for. While the Editorial Board suggests this is “unfair,” the answer isn’t for us to stop progressing. Instead, the answer is to encourage students to take advantage of everything the campus has to offer. The headline of the editorial shouldn’t be “UI officials burden the student body with mandatory fitness fee,” but “You’re paying for it, now go use it.”


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