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Lies, Damned Lies, and Higher Education

In Higher Education on February 26, 2012 at 12:15 am

How Entrenched Interests at UCSD Distort the Facts to Raise Student Fees
Alec Weisman

Washington DC – Two new ballot initiatives at the University of California, San Diego are in the works that if passed would raise student fees by $534 per year, an increase of more than 150 percent. The high stakes of these two referenda have prompted entrenched interests at UC San Diego to spread misinformation, half-truths, and factual distortions in an attempt to pass their fee hikes.

The most contentious of these referenda, the Intercollegiate Athletics (ICA) Student Activity Fee Referendum, seeks to move UCSD from NCAA Division II to Division I. To do so, UCSD needs to increase the athletics budget by $13 million to be competitive, according to a $28,000 UCSD Feasibility Study commissioned by former Associated Students (AS) President Utsav Gupta and Vice Chancellor Student Affairs Penny Rue. The study was carried out by consulting firm Athletics Staffing & Consultants and released in March 2011. This referendum requires undergraduate students to pay an additional $165 per quarter, which will generate around $11 million for the athletics annual budget if enrollment remains the same. The fee would go into effect as soon as UCSD is accepted into the Big West conference, which must happen by September 30, 2014 or else the results of this referendum would be nullified. The vote will be held on Tritonlink from Monday, February 27 and continue until Friday, March 9.

UCSD moved to Division II in 2001, however, its top sports, fencing, men’s volleyball, and water polo, already compete at Division I. After less than three years at Division II public debate had already begun to ask if UCSD should join Division I, although prior to 2007 UCSD did not even offer athletic scholarships. These scholarships are estimated to compose about a third of the ICA operating budget if the referendum is approved.

The distortions begin with the “Pro Statement” on the referendum itself. It reads, “The Division I and Student Scholarships Referendum will raise nearly $8,000,000 per year in scholarships, $3,000,000 of which will go to student grants and aid, not just to athletes.” However, only about $6 million will actually be raised from this new referendum, while the remaining $2 million comes from the $119.78 per quarter ICA Student Activity Fee that students already pay.

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