Imagine Penn State, Harvard and Yale; imagine football players in their glory, cheerleaders jubilant. Now keep imagining, because regardless of whether we vote for the Varsity Centre levy, U of T will not become an institution of eighties-romance-inspired school spirit. As students continue the tradition of the devastatingly clichéd dichotomy of jock vs. student activist, the Varsity editorial board is practically united for perhaps the first time in history. We would like to appeal to students to vote against the Varsity Centre levy.
We agree this university could use a new athletic facility. And when students vote no, they will still get a new athletic facility. The $14 million already budgeted with university funds will more than cover a modest facility, something the university readily admits. So why the multi-million dollar request for student funding?
The No side has taken, appropriately, to calling this a Cadillac athletic centre. Everyone wants a Cadillac, but no one wants to pay for it. Most students would opt for something that still gets us around, but is a little more modest. A $14 million athletic centre (and in all likelihood, some more money will be found after a no vote) does the job.
We are not anti-jock—in fact, we’re the only paper on campus that even covers U of T sports teams (and we do so proudly). But all over campus student groups are in need of space, many programs remain underfunded, students are being turned away, residence shortages loom with the double cohort, and, oh yeah, asbestos is still in many buildings and pops out to say hello when a ceiling tile falls down.
Yes, the Athletic Centre is overcrowded at times. But that’s not the only thing that sucks at U of T, and student levies are not a long-term solution. The problems are many, and if the Varsity Centre logic is applied uniformly to all of them, it adds up very, very quick.
But isn’t this what we wanted? We’re told students decided on the plans. Of course we did. Would you like an extra ice rink? Sure. A bigger track and a new 5,000 seat stadium? Well, sure, though, y’know, 5,000 seats…aren’t we being a little optimistic? We’ll even throw in 7 per cent of general student space of some sort. Oh, okay, sounds great!
But wait. Through this “consultation” period, were you told you were going to have to pay for this? Was it made clear to you that the residences that would be attached to Varsity Centre were going to happen anyway—that the money is budgeted regardless of what happens with the Varsity Centre? Consultation isn’t really consultation when you don’t get the full facts.
Moreover, the university beginning campaigning well before the No side is only the most obvious examples of how the process was not fair. Add to it, if you like, the email fired off by the president to many on campus, or the fact that the university hired numerous students to work on their behalf (nice job if you can get it), but didn’t grant money to the No side until later in the game.
And for us, that’s more than enough to create reasonable doubt. Which is why after great deliberation, it was almost unanimous that we should encourage students to vote against this levy. We say reasonable doubt is enough, because like a trial, this a serious matter, and reasonable doubts cannot be discounted with “we’ll figure it out later.”
There are questions about precedent, about process, about the need for such a large facility, or the big one about the legitimacy of us deciding for students who are not here yet, and who haven’t been given a say. Any one of these doubts is serious enough for the majority of students to vote no. And as much as we don’t like rooting through bill and bank balances, it is time to go to that pile of letters you have, find your ballot and mail it back in before it’s too late.
The Varsity is not against the building of a centre, and we are not against student levies. However, this particular levy is a massive fee for a capital project, which student organizations including the Graduate Students’ Union, the Students’ Administrative Council (SAC), the Arts and Science Student Union, and the Association of Part-time Undergraduate Students have officially come out against. As a student newspaper, we feel it is important to defend students. In closing, we can only quote SAC’s official stance, as outlined by the banner hanging from their building: “How dumb do you think we are?”