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Student groups pledge to oppose fee

University of Hawaii student groups are vowing a "student presence" at tomorrow’s Board of Regents meeting to oppose a proposal that would require them to pay $50 per semester for an athletic fee.

Representatives from the Associated Students of UH (ASUH) and Graduate Student Organization (GSO) have said they will attend the 9 a.m. meeting at the Stan Sheriff Center, a rare athletics venue for a regents’ meeting.

In return for the nearly $2 million that would go to athletics under a proposal forwarded by Manoa chancellor Virginia Hinshaw, students would receive free admission to athletic events, including 5,000 seats at football games at Aloha Stadium.

UH is the only member of the nine-school Western Athletic Conference without some form of an athletic fee.

The proposal has been slightly modified to provide "five to eight percent of the total student fee" to "activities designated to enhance student experiences …" as determined by a student athletic fee committee. It was originally listed at five percent.

"If the BOR passes this fee amid strong opposition from both ASUH and GSO, they will be sending a clear message to the students of the university that it is acceptable to disregard process when making decisions," ASUH president Andrew K. Itsuno said in an e-mail. He said the groups are promoting a "student presence" for the meeting.

In a statement Hinshaw said, "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."

The GSO general assembly said it "recognizes the need for a fiscally viable and student-centered athletics program," but said it "lacks confidence in the chancellor’s proposal" and is asking the regents to reject it.

The GSO executive committee was scheduled to meet yesterday to plot strategy, according to Amy Donahue, chair of the GSO advocacy committee.

The UH athletic department has run at a deficit for eight of the last nine years, with the most recent fiscal year closing at a deficit of approximately $2 million.

But Hinshaw said, "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."

If passed, Itsuno said the athletic fee would be the second largest of nine fees totaling $305.70 that undergraduates would be required to pay each semester.

Hannah Miyamoto, a graduate student, said in an e-mail that, if passed, "Most students will be surprised by this fee when it appears on their billing statements this fall. The majority of students in the system at Manoa do not consider student-athletics to be material to their lives or even an indispensable part of the UH system."


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