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Tuesday, August 19, 2014         

FURTHER REVIEW


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Students shouldn't be extorted to pay athletic department's bills

By Dave Reardon

POSTED:



Mandated "fun" is no fun at all, and forcing young people to pay for our fun is ridiculous and unfair.

That's what this amounts to, the University of Hawaii's pushing forward of a student activity fee proposal. No matter how much UH tries, most of the 20,000 Manoa enrollees aren't going to care enough to get fully behind the sports programs.

But that doesn't stop UH from trying to shove it down their throats ... plus, it's the only way to justify charging them $100 a year for something they don't want.

First of all, call it what it really is. A student activity fee seemed OK, because a few months ago people in the athletic department said it wouldn't just be a dressed-up student intercollegiate athletics fee -- which is what the proposal the Board of Regents will be asked to approve Thursday amounts to.

Nearly all of the money will go to the athletic department. Five percent of the $50-a-semester fee goes to things like transportation to and tailgates at games that most students have consistently shown interest them little.

How coincidental that the funds raised come out to around $2 million a year, the same amount the UH athletic department came up short this past year ... again.

And how convenient that the Regents are presented this to vote upon in the middle of summer -- when student protests are much less likely than during the regular school year.

ATHLETIC DIRECTOR Jim Donovan has often said everyone in the state is a UH athletics "stakeholder."

Two million dollars is what you need each year?

Well, why not just tax each of us million stakeholders $2 each, including the students? I know some of our state dollars already end up on lower campus, but we're told so often the sun won't rise without UH sports, I'm beginning to believe it.

OK, some of you don't like that idea. How about abolishing student government at UH, since what it supports -- backed by a clear majority of the students -- doesn't matter to the administration? Might as well cut it and give the funding saved to the athletic department; it's not $2 million a year, but without that pesky ASUH it'll be easier to just charge the students whatever you want.

Chancellor Virginia Hinshaw might not have felt she had to go this route if not for a previous questionable move in 2008. She agreed on $5.5 million over five years as proper compensation for a football coach with no previous experience at the head of a Division I program -- and a contract with no buy-out provisions.

The root of this situation is a warped set of values. It's caused here largely by UH athletics being the biggest sports show, by far, on the world's most isolated land mass. The students are rightfully more concerned about school than their school's teams, but too many people -- some in power -- can't or don't want to understand that, and UH is taking advantage of it.

This is like me telling my 15-year-old niece, "Hey, I know you'd rather see 'Eclipse,' but we're going to 'Predators.' Oh, and give me $30. I'll drive and buy you some popcorn you might or might not want."

ONE OF the arguments for the "activity" fee is: "Everybody else is doing it."

The trump card is the reply good parents give their teenagers when presented with such mature logic: "That doesn't make it right."

One person close to UH sports who rarely swears surprised me with, "F#$% the students!"

Well, it looks like that's exactly what's happening.

I've also heard the juvenile, "If the students don't like it, they can go somewhere else."

Maybe some of them will. Hopefully for Manoa the next Wesley Fong, David Lassner, Ashok Kumar Malhotra or Virginia Pressler sticks around. You may not have heard of UH's 2010 Distinguished Alumni honorees, but people like them and their achievements are just as important as student-athletes and their successes.

And it's shameful to expect any students to disproportionately pay for the state's sports entertainment.

Reach Star-Advertiser sports columnist Dave Reardon at dreardon@staradvertiser.com, his "Quick Reads" blog at staradvertiser.com and twitter.com/davereardon.






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