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Athletic Department Decides against Price Hike

By Rima Arnaout

The MIT Athletics, Physical Education, and Recreation Department will keep the price of student athletic cards at twenty dollars -- for one more year, at least. The department made the decision on July 9, a day after it had initially announced that it would raise the cost of athletic cards more than twofold, from twenty to fifty dollars a year.

“For this year, at least, we’ll try to get the funding from other sources,” said Daniel Martin, assistant department head for facilities and operations. “We can’t predict” if the department will try to raise athletics card prices again next year, Martin said. “We need to go back and look at the whole picture.”

The decision to raise the price of the athletic cards “came from the athletics department, as it looked at its resources after closing out the academic year,” Martin said.

Martin declined to give specific numbers for how much money an increase in the card price would raise, but he did say that about 5,500 students had athletic cards. “It’s [been] a fairly consistent number for the last few years,” he said.

At first, raising athletic card costs seemed like a logical way to supplement Athletics Department funds, according to Martin.

“We raised the faculty, staff and alumni rates the year before, and we felt we could raise the student rates... We are starting to make some improvements to the facilities; we felt some increase [in athletic card rates] was justified to help our operational overrun,” he said.

Faculty, staff, and alumni participation rounds out the total athletic card membership to about nine thousand, Martin said. Last year’s increase of faculty athletic cards to $125 “was well received.”

According to Martin, the athletic department reconsidered the price hike after students reacted to the announcement. Martin received about one hundred emails.

“We basically feel that we’re here for the students... we did get a lot of emails from students, and talked to people in the student government, and listened to what they had to say,” Martin said. “We just feel that the timing is not right” for any price changes.

Athletics under financial pressure

Some students felt that the attempted price increase was simply the department’s response to financial pressures that affect many student life organizations on campus.

“Athletics is among many MIT student life departments that are drastically underfunded by the MIT senior administration... I encourage everyone to make it known to the senior administration that student life cannot continue to be underfunded,” said Undergraduate Association President Matthew L. McGann ’00, as part of an effort to voice student upset at the price hike.

Martin stressed that the money would have gone “to support existing operations and has nothing to do with the new facilities” such as the Central Athletics Center. With more money, the department plans to hire more personnel to monitor facilities, “to make sure that athletic card holders are the ones using the facilities,” Martin said.

The Athletics Department has been considering other ways to handle financing its facilities, such as building the athletic card fee into tuition. “I know some students have been talking about, ‘why don’t we put it on the student bill?’” Martin said. “I think it would be a good idea... That is something the administration is looking at.”

Making the facilities automatically available to all students would not preclude the need to hire monitors, however, because of the need to keep out people who aren’t affiliated with MIT, Martin noted.

Currently, all students who wish to use MIT’s athletic facilities must purchase an athletic card. “The athletic card includes the use of Johnson Athletic Center, Dupont Gym, Rockwell Cage, the indoor and outdoor tennis courts, the outdoor track, and also obviously field usage and the alumni pool,” Martin said.

In order to use the crew and sailing facilities, students must buy a separate card. Athletic cards have cost twenty dollars for the past ten years, up from ten dollars.