The independent student news site of San Marcos, California

The Cougar Chronicle

The independent student news site of San Marcos, California

The Cougar Chronicle

The independent student news site of San Marcos, California

The Cougar Chronicle

What You Should Know Before Voting on the Wellness and Recreation Facility Referendum

An artist rendering of the proposed facility.

On April 9-11, CSUSM students will be eligible to take part in a campus-wide vote on a proposed increase to their student fees. This fee increase would support the development of a Wellness and Recreation facility.

Students have long voiced their desire for better wellness and recreation facilities. According to a CSUSM survey in Fall 2023, “91% of students indicated that a new facility should be a high priority for CSUSM.” This facility would also have the added benefit of creating over 80 new student assistant positions.

Yet students should be well-informed about the proposed $265 per semester fee increase, especially since they will be making the final decision on whether to fund the facility’s development.

This article will not focus on the details of the proposed Wellness and Recreation facility, as that is already well documented elsewhere. Rather, I will be presenting my argument for voting “no” on the upcoming referendum.

There are two main concerns. First, CSUSM’s dogged pursual of this facility calls into question its motives. Second, the public-private partnership used to develop the facility deserves skepticism. And third, the decision to raise fees for all students despite some of its niche offerings (including Esports) begs the question: why not fund the facility using individual memberships instead of campus-wide student fees?

At the beginning of this school year, CSU faculty went on strike because their real wages had stagnated since the pandemic. Much of our faculty is overworked and underpaid, yet CSU continues to pay administration in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Faculty often have to fight to keep their wages up with inflation. For staff and student assistants it is a similar story. Most student assistants earn minimum wage. For non-student employees, pay should be much better. Yet despite this fact, student fees for the Wellness and Recreation facility would automatically adjust for inflation.

So, although students have clearly voiced their enthusiasm for a health and wellness facility, we must try to understand CSUSM’s enthusiasm for this project, too.

Facilities such as the one proposed for our campus are notorious excuses for students to foot the bill of decreasing university budgets. Not only that, but they often saddle students with even more student debt and are used to attract higher-paying, out-of-state students.

Students on campus have long been vocal about the worsening housing scarcity in San Marcos. Although there will be added housing on the facility’s upper floors, CSUSM is asking students to pay a campus-wide student fee that supports the facility’s development. It is worth recalling that off-campus students are not asked to pay for off-campus housing solutions (such as The QUAD). Essentially, CSUSM is asking students to directly pay for what will already be—in the long term—a lucrative business venture. Not only that, but they are asking students to pay for a project that already involves private investment.

So, what exactly is a public-private partnership (P3)? A P3 development typically involves a private developer who covers much of the initial investment and construction of a project. In return, the public partner will primarily be expected to manage and maintain the facility, generating revenue for the private partner.

What makes this P3 development especially unique is that it would use leased land. CSUSM does not own the land on or around The QUAD (another P3 development). So rather than build the new facility on land CSUSM owns, the university plans to lease the land it is developing on. Not only that, CSUSM is asking students to pay these fees starting at least a year before the facility’s expected completion!

CSUSM stresses that building a wellness and recreation facility on campus would cost students an estimated $900 a semester, which is understandably unfeasible. That said, the nature of this public-private partnership on leased land seriously casts doubt on the argument for why students should be paying these fees at all. If CSUSM does not own outright this proposed facility, why should all students be expected to cover the cost of maintaining what is partially a for-profit business venture? This leads me to my final point.

Why not use personal membership subscriptions instead of asking all students to pay extra fees? There are two reasons this route should be taken seriously.

Firstly, CSUSM students should not have to pay fees for a public-private development on leased land. The mere prospect is honestly quite absurd and only to the benefit of CSUSM and its private partner, not its students.

Secondly, the facility offers a wide variety of amenities, some of which are very niche. This includes Esports, Yoga, Zumba, personal trainers, and more. As great as these resources sound, should all students be paying fees to provide them? Why not offer separate memberships to access these services?

Even if your student fees will be covered by financial aid, this should raise concerns. Whether or not you are personally paying for your schooling, public funds are. This proposed facility is just one example of the growing privatization of public education, especially in California where our schools are in high demand.

My hope has not been to convince the reader that our campus does not need a wellness and recreation facility. They should know that I too think there is a profound need for such services as those proposed.

However, I do not think it would be in students’ best interests to support this current measure. If the university is entering a public-private partnership to develop this facility, it should not expect students to hold up the “public” side of that arrangement. Student fees at a public university should not support private profit, especially given the university’s exploitation of those who do the hard work making CSUSM the campus it is—the faculty, staff, student assistants, and all its other employees. Let’s see their needs met first.

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    NoApr 9, 2024 at 1:56 pm

    Such bias, these straw man arguments is not about the school trying to take more money but instead push for wellness and newer accessible outlets for students to spend their time. As much as you call interests niche, it’s disrespectful to them nonetheless. There is a larger demographic at hand but you focus on the more mundane. Yes there is an ESports den, but you look over the fact of newer equipment, dedicated spaces and who primarily has access to it. while it is on public space, it’s still student only housing and student only accessible. You may make some very good points but are still only choosing to look at certain aspects instead of the bigger picture. without acknowledging the opposition as to why, this is truly a biased article and should not be considered as factor to why people should vote.