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Budget Blues

Campus | October 24, 2016

 

Included in Tufts’ tuition is a $342 student activities fee. This money comes together to create the budget that the Allocations Board of the Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate doles out to 180 different student organizations every year. In 2015, the board worked with $1,729,456.30. In 2015, the board worked with $1,729,456.30.

For the past two years, Tufts Club Sports has received $100,000 for their yearly budget. After this $100,000 leaves the hands of TCU, it is up to Club Sports to allocate it to each team.

According to many Club teams, there is not enough to go around.

Club Rugby has felt especially affected by this tight budget. Due to the dangers associated with the sport, the rugby teams have to take lots of expensive precautions. Senior Nick Nasser, President of Men’s Club Rugby, explains, “Right now, we’re going into the red to have trainers and ambulances at our games, to have TEMS at our games and practices, but we don’t have the money for it.” The team fundraises money from parents and alumni, but they’re still coming up short.

Men’s Rugby has suffered other missed opportunities from the tight budget, such as never being able to hold a spring season. Nasser said, “Every other NESCAC school is allowed to have a spring season for rugby. Spring season is usually geared towards education, so it’s a time for people to learn how to play.”

The budget also limits which students can participate in Club Sports. The Ski Team receives a relatively large slice of the budget because of the numerous expenses associated with skiing. Even so, Ski Team members have to pay sizable dues as well as pay for a portion of their race and travel fees. Danielle Skufca, treasurer of the Ski Team, explained that a larger budget would help cut the high team dues, making the team more accessible. “That would be really nice because often we have students that want to join the team but can’t justify it because of the cost they would have to pay,” she said.

Although many teams feel dissatisfied, TCU Treasurer Chris Leaverton emphasized that TCU is committed to giving adequate funding to Club Sports. “We want to make sure that Club Sports can get the funding they need,” he said. “$100,000 is a lot of money and the issue is that there’s always give and take. More money in one place means there’s less money somewhere else.”

Other student groups are part of the greater give and take. Nasser cited Quidditch (which is not a Club Sport) and the Amalgamates as part of this—they’re student groups allotted relatively large funds by TCU. In 2015, Quidditch received $19,092 from TCU and the Amalgamates received $7,284. In comparison, Men’s Rugby receives $6,000 from the $100,000 Club Sports is allotted. “All these organizations are recognized as doing a lot of traveling to represent the university and compete in all these competitions and give a good name to the school,” Nasser said. He questioned whether or not TCU values Club Sports. “It really comes down to what the university’s priorities are,” Nasser said.

Branwen Smith-King, Assistant Athletic Director, said that TCU is trying their best. “I believe that if they were able to, the TCU would increase funding for Club Sports. However, TCU has many competing priorities.”

Leaverton expressed concern for the Club Sports teams that feel trivialized and devalued. “I can understand why they’re frustrated,” he said. “But I would hope that as we continue to discuss things with different people we can flesh this out. I’m sad that that is the reality because I don’t want anyone feeling like they’re not valued.”

Skufca views Club Sports as indispensable to Tufts. “Club Sports are extremely important on campus because they provide a community for people who want to be part of a team and enjoy a sport that they love,” she said.

Senior Gabrielle Fenaroli considers Club Rugby vital to her identity. “Rugby has shaped a lot of my college experience and I know I wouldn’t be the person I am today without it,” she said. Despite her positive experience, Fenaroli take issues with the budget. “It makes me upset because with such a low budget we aren’t necessarily given the tools that we need to succeed,” she said.

Derek Fieldhouse, a senior and President of the unofficial Boxing Club, has experienced similar frustrations with the Club Sports budget. Due to a lack of resources, there is currently a moratorium on adding new Club Sports. This temporary prohibition has been in place for four years. Smith-King explained, “[The moratorium] was put in place to ensure that existing clubs would continue to have positive experiences and receive appropriate levels of support and assistance consistent with resources and overall needs.”

When Fieldhouse came to Tufts his freshman year, he searched for a boxing team but couldn’t find one. A junior at the time, Merek Johnson, reached out to Fieldhouse and explained that boxing had been cut from Club Sports, but that an unofficial Boxing Club was in the works. Fieldhouse and Johnson petitioned Club Sports to make Boxing Club official, but they were turned away because of the moratorium and the risky nature of boxing.

That didn’t stop them. Boxing Club now has a Facebook group with over 200 members and holds practices four times a week that are well-attended by 25-plus people. But boxing isn’t recognized as a club by TCU, and because of this, the group is not allowed to represent itself at the annual club fair or hold a GIM. Despite lacking formal recognition, Fieldhouse thinks that the club is legitimate enough to receive recognition. “This is ridiculous,” Fieldhouse said. “The interest is here. No one has gotten hurt—no one will get hurt because we’re not sparring. People are interested in learning how to box or they want to work out, and this is more fun to them than running on a treadmill.”

Fieldhouse believes that the current moratorium has a fundamental flaw. “I feel like that’s going against the whole idea of college,” he said. “This is a time for you to do what you love and try new things. They’re like, sorry, you can’t do what you love and you can’t try those new things because we don’t offer those new things.”

In the history of the Club Sports budget, there has been one major anomaly. Four years ago, the budget spiked to $115,000. Nasser saw this as a much needed improvement. “When it was at $115,000 they had a lot of wiggle room to do a lot of different things, but that was only for one year,” he said. “It would be really nice to get back up to $115,000.” The bigger budget was short-lived due to limited resources. Smith-King said, “I believe TCU had a shortfall in funding. Despite the reduction, we appreciated that the Club Sport budget did not get cut even more drastically.” Following the cut, roster caps were implemented in addition to other rules designed to decrease spending. These roster caps meant fewer students were able to participate in Club Sports.

Smith-King is grateful for the current budget. “The TCU Senate has been very supportive of Club Sports and its support enables the club teams to compete.” Nasser, however, would like to see the total Club Sports budget expanded. “If we were given the opportunity to grow our programs to do the things we want to do, then we would be able to represent the university in a better way.” Fenaroli believes Club Sports is deserving. “For the amount of hours that students put into Club Sports there should certainly be more funding,” she said. “I don’t think it would be fair for me to judge how TCU divides up the budget, but I feel like more money towards club sports is certainly merited.”

Despite the complaints, Leaverton assures that the small Club Sports budget is a problem he recognizes. “Club Sports is on our radar, absolutely,” he said. “And it’s one of the issues we’re going to be talking about.”