College News

New bill would limit student fees used for athletics, building projects

A new bill would cap the amount of student fees allowed to fund intercollegiate athletics at $225 — affecting UW-Milwaukee, UW-Green Bay and UW-Superior — and require building projects to be approved by the majority of the student population. 

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A bipartisan group of state representatives introduced a bill that would limit the amount of student fees that could fund intercollegiate athletics and building projects.

State Rep. Dave Murphy, R-Greenville, first introduced Assembly Bill 373 Aug.12, which has seven Republican co-sponsors, along with state Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee. 

Intercollegiate athletics funding from segregated fees would be capped at $225 if the bill becomes law. The cap would impact UW-Milwaukee, UW-Green Bay and UW-Superior’s athletic programs, which charge more than $225 each year, according to a report by the legislature’s budget office.

UW-Milwaukee and UW-Green Bay both have Division I athletic teams in men’s and women’s basketball and men’s and women’s soccer, along with UW-Milwaukee’s baseball team and UW-Green Bay’s softball team. 

However, Murphy said the segregated fees are going toward basketball programs that “aren’t competitive at a national level,” Wisconsin Public Radio reported

“I've got a feeling that if we made them look for a different source for this revenue, the discussion about whether that program is a good idea for that school is a discussion that we could then start to have," Murphy said.

UW-Milwaukee and UW-Green Bay’s men’s basketball teams only made the NCAA tournament once in the past decade — UW-Milwaukee in 2014 and UW-Green Bay in 2016

However, UW-Green Bay’s women’s basketball team made the NCAA tournament eight out of the last 10 years. 

The bill would also require all new building or renovation projects that use segregated fees to be approved by a majority of the campus’ student population in two consecutive votes, in separate academic years. If the project receives approval, the bill also stipulates that no more than 50 percent can be funded through the fees. 

Murphy acknowledged this requirement sets the bar “extremely high” for spending on university building projects, WPR reported. 

“I very much would admit that is a very difficult level to reach," Murphy said. "[The bill] would say you can use this method to fund this if you want, but you really have to get solid support ... But if you can’t, then you’re going to have to find another way.”

The report from the budget office said adding the 50-percent cap on segregated fee funding may also mean “necessary building and renovation projects potentially could not occur without alternative funding sources or state support.”

The Associated Students of Madison, the student government of the UW System's flagship campus, expressed concerns "about any bill that limits students' ability to dictate how student fees are used," according to a statement provided by Press Office Director Matthew Mitnick.

"If students vote to use the fees that they pay into on a building project that will benefit students, then they should be allowed to do so without state interference," the emailed statement said. "Furthermore, a 50% voter turnout in two consecutive academic referenda is not only unrealistic, but also unprecedented. Such a requirement almost guarantees that necessary building projects will not happen."

UW System Student Representatives President William Hansen also cited worries about delayed construction projects, according to WPR. 

“Throughout the entire UW System, every campus is seeing the effects of not having enough money to fix their student rec centers or their student unions or certain class buildings, office buildings," Hansen said. "So, a lot of things are being swept under the rug, which can affect our students both healthwise and academically."

The student approval requirement could also complicate matters, the report said. Building projects will take longer, “likely resulting in higher construction costs,” and it estimated the staff expense to hold these referenda to be around $1 million. 

The bill has yet to be scheduled for a public hearing. 

Update 10/10/19 11:57 p.m.: This article has been updated to include a statement from ASM. 

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