The recent announcement by Kansas Athletics Inc., to reallocate prime student seats to donors is a detriment to student-university relations and an appalling power move against the Student Senate in response to the recent women’s and non-revenue sports fee reduction.
After a review of KAI financial information, Student Senate’s athletic fee review committee recommended that the $25 per semester fee (a $1.2 million annual subsidy from Kansas University students to KAI) be cut for a variety of reasons. The Senate’s fee review committee and the Student Senate upheld this recommendation during their voting process. Chancellor Gray-Little compromised with a small fee reduction which resulted in only a $350,000 decrease in funding to Kansas Athletics.
KAI had experienced a substantial increase in revenues from $51 million in 2005 to $93 million in 2013 and had an endowment of $46 million as of its 2013 audit. In the past eight years, KAI generated enough profit to spend $77 million on capital expenditures. A majority of the revenue increase has come from rising payouts from TV contracts. This will continue and even accelerate over the next decade as Big 12 contracts mature and a new ESPN football post-season television deal comes into effect.
Simply put, there is plenty of money in the coffers to absorb a $350,000 budget cut, and there will be plenty more in the coming years. Characterizing the Allen Fieldhouse seat change as a necessity to replace lost revenue is disingenuous.
Given the current level of education funding and the student debt climate, significant “belt-tightening” has been required by KU students and academic departments. In meetings with senior KAI officials, it became apparent that these economics do not apply to them. There is no such thing as cost cutting, and there is no such thing as scarcity; there is only a search for more sources of revenue and ways to spend it.
However, the decision to sell these prime basketball seats to high-dollar donors isn’t about a shortage of cash flow. It is a not-so-gentle reminder to the KU student body that KAI is the most powerful entity on campus. To challenge such authority is apparently blasphemous.
I lament the fact that an initiative to act as more responsible stewards of our fellow students’ funds has led to a diminished Allen Fieldhouse student experience, and I implore the athletic department to reconsider its decision.
— David Catt, chairman of 2013-2014 Women’s and Non-Revenue Sports Advisory Board. KU Student Senate