In serving as chancellor, I focus on improving the University of Hawaii-Manoa’s learning and research experiences and environments — from raising funds for scholarships and facility renovations to generating awareness and support of Manoa’s academic excellence. A very important connection to folks providing such support and improvements for the entire campus is through a strong, successful athletics program. This magnifies the visibility of UH-Manoa throughout Hawaii and beyond, and that is important to the whole campus. In addition, greater student participation in such events provides experiences and memories that connect them with UH-Manoa now and throughout their lives. Be assured that my No. 1 priority is ensuring student success, because they are our greatest contribution to the state and the world.
It is for these reasons — improving the student experience and strengthening financial stability for the whole university — that I will recommend a $50 per semester student athletic fee, starting in Spring 2011, at tomorrow’s UH Board of Regents meeting.
While raising fees is always difficult, I am convinced that it is time to move forward and work closely with students on enhancing their experience at Manoa. The proposal for this fee was introduced over a year ago. Since then, there have been numerous meetings and discussions with students and student organizations, particularly with members of Student Affairs and Athletics Department. In addition, I required the Athletics Department to cut its budget and emphasized that this fee would not be used for administrative purposes, such as paying coaches’ salaries.
The projected $2 million raised annually by this fee will clearly strengthen our athletics program’s ability to provide successful experiences for all our student-athletes, specifically through scholarships, travel, materials and supplies, and other expenses directly beneficial to student-athletes. This support is critically important in the area of federally mandated gender equity, because most of our Wahine sports programs — like our wonderful softball team that competed in the 2010 Women’s College World Series — need such support to thrive, since such sports generate limited income. For those reasons, every other member of our Western Athletic Conference charges a student athletic fee.
This projected $2 million annually will also benefit Manoa’s general student population, both undergraduates and graduates. Our students will be able to attend UH-Manoa athletic events simply by showing their ID cards — a first for this campus — with the goal of supporting and encouraging student participation. For example, 10 percent of the seating (5,000 seats) at Aloha Stadium will be set aside for Manoa students at Warrior football games. Between 5-8 percent of the total fees collected will support a variety of activities for students to enhance their experience at UH-Manoa. Should the Board of Regents vote to approve the fee tomorrow, we will immediately convene a Student Athletic Fee Committee comprised of student leadership and student groups to discuss the details of a student fee benefit package.
This fee will play an important role in ensuring student engagement and connectivity, lead to a more well-rounded campus life for our 20,000 students, and also assist in addressing financial stability for the university. I have never viewed a student athletic fee as the sole solution in any situation, or in this one, but rather one of several approaches needed to stabilize campus-wide functions. I believe this will encourage more students to attend, enjoy and remember these social gatherings as a positive part of their college experience, ultimately keeping them connected with UH-Manoa.