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A Bad Decision, A Suspect Process

The Tech opposes the Institute’s decision to impose a $50 athletics fee on each student. This tax will not result in benefits such as facilities improvement or the return of JV teams. More importantly, the process by which this decision was made is terribly suspect.

Last fall, the Institute floated a trial balloon -- raising the price of the athletics card to $50. That balloon was quickly popped by overwhelming student reaction against the fee. But, instead of listening to the students’ strong opinion that the cost to students of using the athletics facilities should not be increased, the administration has snuck in a surcharge which every student, not just athletics card holders, must pay.

The fee increase is especially absurd considering the spotty services provided to the MIT community by the Athletics Department. The fitness facilities, for example, are disgraceful compared to those of other colleges (our “peer institutions”), and the decision to cut all junior varsity sports teams needlessly deprives many MIT students of a chance to participate in team athletics. The increase would have been easier to stomach if the added funds addressed these situations, but the Athletics Department has been clear that this fee will not bring JV teams back, nor is there any guarantee that facilities will see any short-term upgrades.

At a time when the Institute is seeking to raise $1.5 billion, with $100 million of that sum devoted to student life, it is ludicrous to ask students, many of whom face difficulty contending with ever-rising tuition bills, to open their wallets again to fix this problem. We fear that this will set a precedent -- when other little problems appear on campus, the Institute will tack another $50 on to tuition.

While we disagree with the decision to raise the athletics fee (thereby forcing every student to pay this surcharge), we are even angrier at the process by which this decision was made. The administration did not follow a clear and open process in reaching this decision, but instead made a decision veiled in darkness, rife with typical administrative doublespeak.

Knowing the unpopularity of the idea, the administration chose not to publicly announce this decision and seek feedback, but instead casually mentioned that it had actually implemented the athletics fee at a forum last week. Dean Rosalind Williams’ assurances notwithstanding [“Athletics Fund Bump Not a ‘Fee,’ Mar. 3], this tuition increase is a fee, and to claim otherwise only compounds an already sour situation and raises further doubts about the honesty of the administration.

Perhaps the administration was hoping that nobody would notice if an extra $50 fee was snuck onto tuition bills. Unfortunately for them, The Tech did notice, and we condemn the decision -- and the process by which it was made.