$53,713 cut to be made in athletics at Laurier

(Graphic by Joshua Awolade)
(Graphic by Joshua Awolade)

Wilfrid Laurier University’s department of athletics and recreation is feeling the pressure from the university’s deficit.

In light of the recent announcement that WLU must slash two per cent of its upcoming operating budget, the department of athletics is facing a cut of their own.

Athletics’ total operating budget cut will equate to $53,713, which is $24,616 of the money funded from the university and an additional $29,097 from the money funded by the Student Affairs Administrative Agreement (SAAA). 50 per cent of the funding for athletics and recreation comes from the university, while 50 per cent comes from the students.

Ari Grossman, associate director: business operations in the department of athletics and recreation explained that the majority of the cut comes from student labour. This includes the student employees who help run the athletic complex and event staff throughout the summer and the academic year.

“While we haven’t adjusted wages by any means — in fact they’re going up as a result of minimum wage — we’ve decreased the number of opportunities for students to work within our department,” Grossman said.

The department will cut $14,016 of payroll for student labour out of the money funded by the university, and an additional $9,220 in student employment hours from the SAAA funding. An additional $2,750 was cut from the efficiency of student labour.

“Student labour … is almost half of the cut,” Grossman explained. “If we keep going down this path of cutting student labour, we may not be able to compete [as an athletics department] as well as we have in the past.”

Grossman also mentioned that one of the biggest issues that will affect service is the Hawk Desk. Athletics is proposing that during the peak months of September and January, they will only staff two people at the Hawk Desk instead of three. Grossman said services levels are “at a big risk as a result” because of the high demand.

Despite concerns of having to shorten hours at the fitness centre, they managed to avoid it. Grossman said there was “concern about the appearance of that,” given the recent expansion to the centre.

Additional cuts to round out the rest of the $53,713 includes $7,300 cut from the central university’s cell phone plan, $3,300 from the central budget of staff professional development and $15,011 from new revenue generation.

The final $2,116 will be cut from stadium strength training, which is the only cut directly to varsity athlete programs at Laurier.

“Those are hours where athletes that are not in season are continuously working on their strength and conditioning over in the stadium in the mornings,” Grossman explained.

However, according to the budget cuts document, there will be a two per cent increase in recreational programming registration fees excluding ice hockey intramurals and group fitness, and another two per cent increase in the interuniversity athletic participation fees. These are the fees that student-athletes pay in order to play for Laurier.

This revenue, according to Jim Butler, vice president of finance and administration at WLU, is unique to athletics.

“They do enjoy a revenue stream. If they can increase that revenue stream, it might offset any budget cuts,” he said. “But [athletics] is part of the university’s overall budget. It’s not operating as an insularly like food services or the bookstore.”

According to Grossman, athletics has $1,400,000 in unique revenue that goes directly to their operational budget. This comes from the student-athlete fees, facility rentals, external groups, sponsorship and ticketing.

But while they do enjoy additional revenue, athletics must be careful not to use donation dollars as a means of operating dollars.

“A donor or a sponsor of a program doesn’t want to hear that their $1,000 is just [a part] of an operating budget so that they can continue to do what they’re already doing,” Grossman explained. “We run these events in order to try to enhance experiences, but the base experience is what is getting strangled.”

The overall decisions for the university-wide two per cent budget cut will be determined within the next couple of weeks, according to Butler.

“We’ll be making decisions and then taking it through the governance processes, which would involve the senate and the board of governors,” he said.

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