By Michelle Moreno Lira
Chancellor Gary May has been on the receiving end of a backlash from students demanding the university’s Physical Education program to return. After making the sudden decision to end the program, the university continues to charge students $340 every year for a program that no longer exists.
The contract between the university and student body included a $340 fee as part of the Student Activities and Services Initiative Fee (SASI) established in 1994 during an election that involved the student body’s input. This fee helps fund the UC Davis Intercollegiate Athletics program (ICA) in exchange for physical education courses that provide students with academic credit.
The ICA continues to receive funding from these fees, yet the school no longer maintains its part of the agreement. Aside from these fees, the school charges each student $240 quarterly for campus fees despite the school being online with many students off campus.
This is ironic since the school’s physical education courses allowed students to maintain a healthy lifestyle that encouraged different activities to upkeep their physical health. The Davis Faculty Association wrote a letter to the university where they make several claims regarding the benefits that many students receive due to taking PE courses.
As a student, I am upset because this isn’t the first time the university has shown us that money is more important than providing faculty and students with more resources. In February 2020, graduate students went on strike after the university failed to offer Teaching Assistants a livable wage.
Many students are upset that the university continues to charge students for campus fees when so many of them had returned home or terminated their leasing agreements. The university never spoke about this situation and only gave specific qualified students a one-time COVID-19 CARES Act grant, ranging from $500 to $1,000.
Many students are experiencing food insecurity, and the weight of living expenses feels heavier this year after the negative impacts of COVID-19. Students were hopeful that the university would subtract a percentage from their tuition after campus closures were announced.
Until this very day, this still hasn’t happened.
As a UC Davis student, I believe the Chancellor and the university care more about funding the Intercollegiate Athletics programs than providing the school with better resources. The school could use that money to expand programs like The Pantry to provide students with more necessities.
I believe many students would enjoy having free healthy food, toiletries, non-perishable products, clothing items or basic living necessities. Programs such as the AB540 Center on campus provide students with free bedding, meal swipes or Aggie cash. I believe expanding these programs throughout campus and making them readily available to students would be a better use of funds.
Although the agreement was made with the student body, Chancellor May made a harsh decision. He chose not to acknowledge students’ opinions despite a petition to keep the programs gaining more than 5k signatures.
Students started the petition to pressure the Chancellor into rethinking his decision and considering the students who benefit from these programs. The courses allow students to receive health education and participate in sports or exercises that they might not have the opportunity to experience outside of college.
Many of the faculty members urged Chancellor May to rethink his decision and consider the student body’s argument since these programs serve an essential purpose. UC Davis is proud to consider itself one of the top universities, and yet they’re failing their faculty and students by cashing in checks for programs that have been removed.
The physical education program provides students with resources such as self-defense, martial arts and other sports that encourage a healthier lifestyle. These courses allowed students to exercise while having fun and picking a new hobby.
For now, Chancellor Gary May has maintained his decision and hasn’t announced any new changes. I hope he rethinks his decision and brings back the program that many students enjoyed. If he chooses to remain firm, I hope he considers the voices of the student body.
Michelle Moreno is a fourth-year majoring in English and minoring in Chicano Studies. She is from Downtown Los Angeles.
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