Debunking Rumors about Proposed ARC

By Loren Brewer

Politics Editor

Concept Images taken from Aggie Recreation Center website
Usually, Utah State University’s ASUSU elections are fairly tame. A few posters, t-shirts, and warming handshakes and the elections are done. But with the purposed ARC (Aggie Recreation Center) and Legacy Field fee hike for students, elections all of a sudden became a whole lot more controversial and dynamic.

Whether you were for or against the measures, you couldn’t escape the PR campaign of the university and ASUSU for the ARC. Nor could you miss the opposition, Students Against Academic Waste (SAAW), waging an equally tenacious campaign.
There is no question that the HPER building and the Nelson Fieldhouse are old. The Fieldhouse is so old that my grandfather who went to school here in the 1950s used it, and even then it wasn’t brand new. The HPER proclaims its age with a plaque on the front saying that it was built in the 1970s. The costs of renovation would easily outweigh the costs of building a new building for recreation. The costs of renovating the foundation to bring it up to acceptable building codes could cost millions, and then there would be the rest of the building. Building a new recreation center makes sense when we look at it in that form.

But as journalist, I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t dig a bit deeper into this. After all, the campaigns for and against were so fierce, there has to be more to the story than just building a new facility. There are a few questions that need to be asked: Did the university really consider all its options before proposing the fee? Did ASUSU and the university cross a line when they emailed students to vote for the fee? I was able to talk to Eric Olsen, Associate Vice President of Student Services, about some of these questions. I was quite surprised at what I learned.

Olsen said the fee was actually a student measure. The ballot measure for the recreation center was started by former ASUSU president Tyler Tolson and the process the ARC and Legacy Field fees went through to get in the ASUSU elections ballot was entirely handled by the student government. Contrary to common sentiments, the university had little to do with the whole process. I had to admit that I was a bit taken back when Olsen told me about this. Rumors of university manipulation and/or incitation of the ARC apparently are just that: Rumors.

After speaking with Olsen, I felt that several clarifications needed to be made:

Clarification No. 1: There is currently no student recreation center.
The HPER and Fieldhouse are not recreation buildings. In fact, the HPER is actually part of the education department and is primarily used for classes, Olson said. The education department allows the building to be used for recreation in order to accommodate USU’s growing recreation needs.

Even though the Fieldhouse was renovated to give place for students to exercise, it has a problem comparable to the HPER. It is shared by students, athletics, and special events, said James Morales, Vice President of Student Services, in an email. “You’d be surprised how many student intramural teams are turned way,” said Olsen, “because of scheduling conflicts [in the Field house].”

According to Olsen, there is no building officially dedicated for student recreation.


Clarification No. 2: The fees aren’t set in stone.
Olsen was very clear that the fees weren’t set in any manner. The vote was to allow an additional fee to be added to the current fees. The university and ASUSU are looking at ways to lower the fee with private donations. The fees, $25 per year starting next fall and then $75 year starting fall 2015, are the maximum that could be charged—not the minimum, Olson said.

The student fee was proposed to be $30, but through private donations, ASUSU officials knocked it down to $25, according to a statement from current ASUSU President Erik Mikkelsen in a story from the Logan Herald Journal. With more private donations likely, the $25 and eventual $75 fee could possibly be a lot less than the measure originally specified.

Clarification No. 3: Campus recreation didn’t advocate the fee. Well, not per say.
I received the same email during election week as many students, including the student who complained that campus recreation was crossing a line by emailing students about the elections—particularly, the fee for the ARC. I think it would be a good idea to quote what the email said:

Remember to vote in the ASUSU Elections.
The Rec Center and Fields are on the ballot!
Student support of these fees will allow construction of these much-needed
indoor and outdoor student recreation facilities on the Logan campus.
For more information on the Aggie Legacy Fields & Aggie Recreation Center visit:
ARC Project page –
http://www.usu.edu/aggiereccenter
or
USU Campus Recreation – http://www.usu.edu/camprec
You are receiving this e-mail because you have used the recreation facilities on
campus and/or have participated in one of Campus Recreation’s programs.

Not necessarily damning evidence of university manipulation. If anything, it is more or less an encouragement to go out and vote. You can infer what Campus Recreation feels about the measure. But they didn’t say, “vote for this measure.” They just stated that student support will allow for needed recreation facilities, and if you want more information, check out the links. That’s not a direct solicitation. Also, the email only went to students who used the recreation facilities. Again, this wasn’t a direct solicitation. It was more like an appeal to those who would care.

That’s a lot of people. During the fall 2008 semester, 58,988 card swipes were recorded by users of the Field House, Morales said. He added that during fall semester 2011, the number of card swipes at the Field House had risen to 100,903, an increase of 71 percent.
A new student recreation center may be viewed by Campus Recreation as a welcome relief to the pressures of growing student recreation.
 
Clarification No. 4: Students will have a lot of control over the ARC.
Perhaps another point that is often overlooked by students — myself included – is that nothing about the plans for the recreation center is for sure. Nothing is set in stone, Olsen said; all renditions of the ARC are just that, renditions. Students will have a lot of input. In fact, Olsen said the ARC would be run by a governing board of students. They would control who uses the building and what would be done with it. This will give students a lot more say in what will happen to the ARC. More than some originally thought—myself included.

With some ambiguity removed, I think it’s time for students to move on. The vote is done. Whether or not you voted for the ARC, the fee is here. What you do from here on out is up to you.

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3 thoughts on “Debunking Rumors about Proposed ARC

  1. Great article. Thanks, Loren. It’s nice to get more insight on what you are right in calling a controversial topic, and this presents a lot of valuable information.

    You’re right that the votes have been cast and it’s time to move on, but there’s one claim in your article that didn’t sit well with me.

    “Student support of these fees will allow construction of these much-needed
    indoor and outdoor student recreation facilities on the Logan campus.”

    I actually think this is pretty damning evidence.

    “Student Support” bears a romantic tone, “Will” suggests that the bill’s passage is a given (which creates a majority mentality among voters and makes them think they’re in the norm if they vote for it), “much-needed,” obviously, invokes a certain feeling.

    People who were for the vote will argue that this language is harmless, but I think the bias is pretty clear, and it’s not a far-fetched argument that campus rec. was out of line when it emailed this out.

    1. rob,

      I understand what you mean that depending on how you voted would determine whether or not you thought the rec facility had crossed a line. for the sake of clarification. i voted against the arc. when investigating the claim made by that student i looked at the language and put it in context. i concluded that though the thrust of the message was to spread the word about the arc. the rec center didnt act out of line

      1. Hey Loren,

        I understand – it’s mostly just a judgement call whether or not the language was out of line. I don’t think it’s unfair to say it was in-line, I just strongly disagree.

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