(St. Louis) -- Feedback has remained positive after students passed an athletic fee referendum during the 2011 Saint Louis University Student Government Association elections on Feb. 28.
The referendum entailed a new fee of $15 added onto each student’s tuition each semester. Despite this additional cost for students, reviews have largely been positive.
SGA member Patrick Grillot expressed his excitement for the new fee.
“I think it was good that students were interested and voted on [the referendum] in the election,” he said. “It is good that it wasn’t just imposed by the school or SGA on the students.”
The new fee will allow Chaifetz Arena to open up admission to students for all Billiken athletic events. This includes opening up 1,000 seats on a first-come, first-served basis in the student section for free admission to men’s basketball games. The fee will begin with the 2011-2012 academic school year and will remain at a fixed price until the 2015-2016 academic school year. At that point the fee will be reviewed to determine its continuation.
The $15 each semester compares to the previous $135 it cost students wishing to purchase season tickets for men’s basketball. For non-season ticket holders, ticket prices had been $10 a game (there are 14 to 15 home games each season), SGA member Eric Lampe said.
“[It] was not a very good deal,” Lampe said of the original prices. “Especially with the amount of money the school has dumped into the program recently, with an $88 million arena and a million-dollar-a-year coach.”
Grillot agrees. He has never been a season ticket holder and has only attended four or five men’s basketball games. Most of these were free games.
“It’s way too expensive,” he said of his reasons for not attending more games.
SGA created a season ticket task force of about five people to investigate a solution. Lampe was one of them.
The task force looked into other Jesuit schools’ methods for increasing and assisting student attendance at basketball games, he said. It then calculated some numbers as to what would or would not be reasonable for students.
“We sent out a survey to all students,” Lampe said. “We had over 1,000 responses and they were overwhelmingly in favor.”
In the task force’s subsequent PowerPoint presentation to SGA, survey results showed that 75 percent of the student body voted that it would attend more games if an athletic fee were included in tuition. The cost of the fee would roughly break down to less than $2 per person per game.
The task force showed the results to President Lawrence Biondi, S.J., who was open to the fee as long as the idea came from students, Lampe said. Next, SGA decided the specifics of the bill that the students voted on in February.
The new fee has caused much excitement and enthusiasm.
“I already get into the games for free, so from a monetary standpoint, I am not at all benefitting from this,” said Jesse Meridian, who works with Chaifetz Arena Marketing. “But considering the fact that the stadium will be filled like a Division I school should be, I could not be happier.”
Both Lampe and Grillot agree.
“This will improve the experience at Chaifetz both for fundraising and the overall experience,” said Grillot, who has worked with other chartered student organizations on campus in fundraising opportunities at the arena. “There will be more buzz. Overall, it is good for anything associated with athletics.”
Students such as Meridian are excited about the opportunity for a changed atmosphere surrounding athletics.
“The games will be so much more fun to attend,” he said.
Graduate students strongly opposed the referendum, Grillot admitted. For this reason, graduate students are not required to participate but are allowed to “opt in.” The $15 cost will not be added into their tuition.
Grillot admitted that the fee is not without its critics. For some students, he estimated, the additional fee added to tuition could be taxing. Some students might have a hard time affording even the $15 a semester, he said. The fee is also deemed unnecessary by those who won’t attend athletic events.
When asked if SGA had received any poor reviews from other programs such as theater and the arts for over focusing on athletics, Grillot responded that they had not. In fact, SGA, he said, would be open to a possible “arts fee” as well.
“Come to SGA to pitch it to us,” Grillot said. “Any student can start a referendum.”
Hallie Kaiser and Madison Larkin are students at Saint Louis University