The Utah State University Fee Board (USFB) held its second meeting Wednesday, hearing a final round of fee increase proposals from USU’s athletics department and Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS).
John Hartwell, the university athletics director, kicked the night off by requesting a $7 fee increase he plans to put toward a new ticketing system called Spectra, a Pocket-Points-esque program called FanMaker and other promotional and marketing items for sporting events.
Hartwell bid for the USFB’s support, saying the money the athletics department is requesting would go “back to the general student population,” and it would “make [athletic events] more accessible and more student-friendly.”
In total, the athletics fee increase would add $225,000 to the department’s budget of a little over $30 million. Hartwell broke down the proposed increase, stating $105,000 would be put toward purchasing and implementing the new ticketing program, $15,000 toward licensing the FanMaker program, $20,000 toward the equipment necessary to operate FanMaker and $85,000 toward marketing and promotional items that Hartwell said he and the Hurd had been working together to generate.
In his proposal, Hartwell stressed the importance he has placed on budgeting since he began his tenure as athletics director in June of 2015. Hartwell said his time at USU started with a troubling budget situation, facing a projected deficit of $516,000 for the past 2016 fiscal year. The department, he said, ended with a deficit of $339,000. It’s “not where we want to be,” Hartwell said, “but we’re taking steps.”
Hartwell is projecting a surplus for the current fiscal year of about $6,000.
Opposition to the athletics fee increase largely concerned the questions of the necessity of a new ticketing system and the FanMaker program, and whether marketing and promotional events actually incentivize students to attend USU sports events.
“I don’t believe promotional activities necessarily drive traffic to sporting events,” said Jacob Lake, a student-at-large on the USFB. “I attend for social reasons and when our team wins. I think the funding request is superfluous.”
Paulina Rivera-Soto, another student-at-large, agreed with Lake.
“I feel this is more of a want than a need. I don’t believe that the burden of the fee should rest on the students,” Rivers-Soto said.
USUSA athletics and campus recreation vice president Blake Lyman, who was in favor of the fee, stressed that the fee was “not intended to just be for athletics,” and that it was “meant to help all activities.”
Lyman’s point was supported by arts senator Jace Goodwin, who spoke about the marketing value the new FanMaker and Spectra programs would have for the entire university. Much of the discussion in favor of the athletics fee touched on the data gathering potential the two new programs, FanMaker and Spectra, possess.
“Improving the data we use hits home to me,” Goodwin said. “There are thousands of dollars that get wasted on marketing here because we have no idea what’s landing and what isn’t. I think they’ve done a lot of work to make sure they’re asking for data and technology that is going to benefit the university as a whole.”
Following the athletics fee proposal, the USFB heard from Dr. David Bush of CAPS, who proposed to create a $3.50 fee that, if approved by the board, would be voted on this spring during the university elections.
The bulk of the fee, Bush said, would go toward hiring another psychologist to work at CAPS. Currently, CAPS has eight licensed psychologists on staff. According to Bush, national recommendations indicate there should be one psychologist per every 1,500 students at a university, which suggests USU’s Logan campus — home to a little over 16,000 students — is missing the mark by about 2 licensed psychologists.
“Hiring more psychologists isn’t going to eliminate the problem, but this is one attempt to catch up,” Bush said.
Overwhelmingly, members of the USFB spoke in favor of the creation of the fee. USUSA president Ashley Waddoups and student advocate vice president Matthew Clewett discussed the importance of CAPS to the university and the message creating a fee would send to the Utah state legislature.
Waddoups pointed to the universal benefits of good mental health.
“People’s mental health has a ripple effect throughout the campus community,” she said.
She described good mental health as a “basic need,” and said if it were to be added to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, it ought to be on the bottom of the pyramid along with other essential human needs.
Clewett discussed the lobbying power creating a fee could provide for the university when it makes future bids for funding from the Utah legislature. If the fee were to be approved by the USFB and subsequently voted in favor of by the USU student body, Clewett said those who lobby for the university could show the student body had done its part to help improve the state of student mental health, and say “it’s time for them to take their part as well.”
“If we’re going to move forward as a student body and address this crisis, this is exactly what we need to be doing in the first place,” Clewett said.
The USFB will vote on the five proposals in the final fee board meeting on Feb. 8 at 5:30 p.m. in the Taggart Student Center (TSC) senate chambers. All students are welcome to attend.
Photo by Kyle Todecheene