Student Senate voted to zero out the Kansas Athletics fee on Wednesday night, April 3, following a veto issued by Student Body President Noah Ries in order for Senate to review the decision to cut the entire fee.
Zeroing out the fee requires Athletics to make up for the money lost elsewhere, which Athletics told Ries could result in an increase to the All Sports Combo Package and a loss of student section seats in Allen Fieldhouse.
After meeting with Kansas Athletics Inc., Ries was given three different ways to cut the Athletics fee, with each including additional consequences of what should happen if the fee were to be cut.
After being given those alternatives, Ries issued his veto power for the first time during his term.
“This is the most important bill we pass all year and I didn’t really see anything wrong with taking a second look at it before we pass $23 million of student fees,” Ries said.
The first option was a four-year sunset with the Athletics fee remaining at $7 in fiscal year 2020, $4.75 in fiscal year 2021, $2.25 in fiscal year 2022 and $0 in fiscal year 2023. This option would cause the All Sports Combo Package to increase from $155 to $175 in fiscal year 2021.
The second option was a three year sunset with the fee being cut to $5 in fiscal year 2020, $2.50 in fiscal year 2021 and $0 in fiscal year 2022. The All Sports Combo Package would increase to $175 in fiscal year 2020.
The final option was to cut the entire fee. This could result in an increase to the All Sports Combo Package, removal of the Student Body President from the Athletics advisory board, and loss of student section seats in Allen Fieldhouse, though Ries said this would be a last resort for both parties involved.
“This is totally your decision and I completely stand by whatever the senators decide to do tonight, I just want to make sure that you all know what could happen with each and every option,” Ries said during full Senate on Wednesday night.
Removing the Student Body President from the athletics advisory board goes against Athletics' articles of incorporation article five in which it states, “The business of this Corporation shall be managed and its affairs shall be conducted by a Board of Directors, consisting of" the following:
- The Chancellor of the University of Kansas
- University of Kansas Director of Intercollegiate Athletics
- University Chief Business and Financial Planning Officer
- University Faculty Athletics Representative to the Big 12 Conference
- Senior Administrator appointed by the University Provost
- University Vice Provost for Student Success
- Student Body President of University of Kansas, Lawrence, campus
After Ries explained each option, senators asked questions regarding the athletics fee and its impact on students. Many senators asked why Ries was acting as the current spokesperson for Athletics, rather than someone from the organization.
Ries asked Athletics Director Jeff Long to attend the meeting; however, due to the short notice, a spokesperson from Kansas Athletics said Long was unavailable.
Throughout the meeting, Ries continually referred to himself as “the messenger” while relaying the information to the senators in order to differentiate between what Athletics told him and his own opinion on the fee.
Throughout the meeting, student senators in attendance asked why funding should be allocated to Kansas Athletics Inc. seeing as no representatives came to the Senate meeting.
“Seeing that Athletics can have someone as high profile as Les Miles go on Wescoe Beach and play cornhole with students, why was no one sent here [from Athletics] to talk to us about this?” said Senate Director of Diversity and Equity Trey Duran. “Is it feasible if we asked any other fee officer to come and request $300,000 that we would give this much effort to them when they wouldn’t show up?”
Executive Associate Athletics Director Nicole Corcoran said in an email to Ries that Athletics hoped Senate would consider an option to sunset the fee.
“Please note, that if the fee is cut, all options discussed are on the table to address the budget gap,” Corcoran said in the email. “As shared in our meeting, we sincerely hope a sunset option would be considered by the Senate and appreciate your leadership in bringing the potential solutions back to the Senate for discussion.”
Ries and treasurer Robin Bajpai said they wanted the full Senate body to consider potential student impact before voting.
“At the end of the day we have to make a decision based on what we think is best for our students,” Bajpai said.
In order to override the president’s veto, senators needed a two-thirds vote in favor of the fee review bill. The senators voted 28 in favor, 8 opposed and 4 abstaining on the bill, overriding Ries’ veto and voting for it to move to Chancellor Douglas Girod’s review.
“Student Senate’s whole purpose is to provide equal opportunities for students, and when you give money to Athletics in this amount with these types of purposes, it’s structural privilege,” student senator Grant Daily said in an interview with the Kansan.
The fee review bill will now go under review with the chancellor, and will then move to the Kansas Board of Regents for approval.