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Students Approve Athletics Fee Increase

 (Logo. Source: Student Government Association at UT-Tyler.)

By James Hescock

UT-Tyler students approved a proposal to increase the mandatory Intercollegiate Athletics Fee last week 53.04% to 46.96%, with a voter turnout of 937 voters. The referendum saw the second largest turnout for a student election in nearly a decade, coming just shy of fall 2021’s student election of 1,106, which was over a previous athletics fee increase proposal.

Neither Vice President for Athletics Howard Patterson nor Student Body President Chloe Dix responded to requests for comment by the time of this article’s publication. Dix’s association, student government, facilitated the election.

According to the proposal, students’ maximum semester payment for the Intercollegiate Athletics Fee will now increase by $90 and install in roughly $30 increments over the next three years. Minimum semester payments will also go up, from $96 now to $132 in fall 2026.

The athletics department ran in favor of a fee increase on the basis that the program provides national awareness to the University to prospective students and donors. It also touted athletics’ contributions to school spirit and student engagement, among other benefits. Unique to this fee increase was its claim that the fee increase’s passage would reduce the University’s spending on athletics and therefore “free-up” funding for other student organizations.

Patriot Weekly ran editorials critical of these claims in the weeks leading up to the referendum. It said that students did not need to pass a fee increase to gain more money for extracurriculars and that students were not responsible for the University’s risky NCAA Division II transition which lead to greater athletics expenses. It claimed this transfer of responsibility was what the fee proposal was about.

With 497 students who voted to approve the fee increase and 440 voted against it, the referendum passed by 57  votes.

Student athlete and men’s basketball player Mate Kapanadze said he was happy to hear the results. “I am happy that it will increase,” he said.

Kapanadze said he voted in favor of the increase to promote the University. “I think for a lot of people to know about this university, athletics has to be better. So if we didn’t have money to help…it would be tough for us to compete on a high level because other DII colleges have more money than us. So I feel that would help us.”

Kapanadze is an international student from the country Georgia and said he pays for college through a scholarship.

Freshman Payton Wendt said she voted against the increase. “I said no to the referendum because I didn’t want to have to pay more for something that I’m not participating in just because I don’t go to the games or anything like that. So, I thought, Why would I have to pay when I’m not participating in it?”

As for how she feels now that the increase passed, Wendt said, “Well, majority rules, I guess. I’ll just have to pay the extra that they said.”

Wendt said, “Right now, I’m able to go to college strictly on an [academic] scholarship. I’m not sure how I’m going to pay for my next semesters honestly but I’m on my own to figure it out.” Wendt is a civil engineering major.

Another freshman engineering major remarked that he did not vote because he did not feel his vote would make a difference amidst so many other students in the student body.

Freshman Omar Espiricueta said he did not vote because he did not know about the fee election.

However, after hearing how only around 900 students out of roughly 9,500 voted, both said they would have voted if they had known about the low turnout.

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James Hescock
I blog about student life and policy at the University of Texas at Tyler.

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