In an effort to bring the student voice into decisions regarding the new Husky Stadium, the Dawg Pack Student Advisory Committee had its first meeting last week with Intercollegiate Athletics (ICA), along with its first misunderstanding.
After the UW athletics department announced its decision to relocate the Dawg Pack from its original position at the 50-yard line to the west end zone in the new Husky Stadium, the ASUW and the Graduate and Professional Student Senate (GPSS) formed a Dawg Pack Task Force — which included students from ASUW, GPSS, the residence halls, the Greek system and the Office of Minority Affairs and Diversity — to negotiate with the athletics department about the new Dawg Pack.
Negotiations led to the creation of the Dawg Pack Student Advisory Committee, which will provide the athletics department with ongoing student input about the Dawg Pack.
After the negotiations, ASUW President Madeleine McKenna sent out an email March 10 to the student body saying that next year’s student tickets would be $120 for six games in the current stadium, $99 for six games in Qwest Field in 2012, and $99 for seven games in the new Husky Stadium in 2013.
Then, at the first meeting between the Dawg Pack Student Advisory Committee and the athletics department May 17, McKenna said she saw that the student ticket price for the 2011 football season would be $125 and didn’t think that price was what had been agreed upon.
However, O.D. Vincent, senior associate athletic director, said that student ticket prices would be the same for the 2011 season as they were this past year and that’s what was agreed in the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between ICA and the Dawg Pack Task Force.
“Last year, the tickets were $120 dollars and a $5 surcharge for the Dawg Pack T-shirt,” Vincent said. “In the MOU, we agreed to the same price as last year.”
The MOU states that ticket prices in 2011 will be “$120 for six games in current stadium and current location.” As the T-shirt is not an optional fee, McKenna said that the athletics department is not holding up its end of the deal.
“If you have to buy a T-shirt, that’s a $125 ticket,” McKenna said. “We never discussed whether or not a T-shirt was included in that price of $120.”
McKenna said that she wants the ticket prices listed in the MOU to be the final price students have to pay, and that she raised the issue of the extra charge for the T-shirt with the athletics department in order to ensure that the prices for future years are capped at those listed in the MOU: the $99 ticket prices that were negotiated for the games being held at Qwest Field during the stadium’s construction and the 2013 season in the newly renovated stadium.
“We want to make sure that $99 ticket prices [for the 2012 and 2013 seasons] should include the T-shirt if that’s a required charge,” McKenna said.
Senior Shaun Callahan, who was vocal in student opposition concerning changes to the Dawg Pack, said that he doesn’t think that locked-in ticket prices and other deals made between the athletics department and students are a fair exchange for the Dawg Pack’s relocation.
“I don’t think we’re getting enough in return for what we gave up,” Callahan said. “We’re still paying $125 (including the mandatory T-shirt) for six games, instead of seven games, because the Apple Cup is at [Qwest].”
Callahan said that the T-shirt charge shows that the athletics department is not making enough concessions in negotiations with students.
Another part of the bargaining efforts was the implementation of a Dawg Pack scholarship program, which will provide complimentary tickets in the student section for 20 low-income students per game, beginning in the 2011 season. The scholarship program was discussed during the first meeting between the Dawg Pack Student Advisory Committee and the athletics department.
“Our meeting focused mostly on the logistics of implementing the Dawg Pack scholarship program,” McKenna said. “That was a productive discussion.”
Vincent said that he thought the Dawg Pack scholarship program was a great outcome of the negotiations because it will provide the opportunity for 120 students in total to attend a football game, who might not be able to otherwise.
Students are eligible for the scholarship program if they are receiving need-based aid after filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The complimentary tickets will be distributed to students who sign up to receive them on a first-come, first-served basis.
“I think [the scholarship program] is a good thing because Husky football should be available to every student,” Callahan said.
He added that he thought the athletics department should use private donations to provide scholarships for all low-income students — not just 20 per game.
Despite the disagreement on the ticket prices, McKenna said she thinks the athletics department has worked well with students during the negotiation process and the implementation of the Dawg Pack Student Advisory Committee.
“Athletics has been an honest and firm bargaining partner,” McKenna said. “I think that there was potentially an oversight with the ticket prices. We’re working to remedy that and make sure the agreements made between athletics and students are upheld.”
Similarly, Vincent said that he thought the first meeting between the athletics department and the student committee to discuss the deals made with students about the future of the Dawg Pack went well.
“I thought we had a very successful first meeting,” he said. “We had good student representation across the board.”
Though the committee allows students to meet with the athletics department monthly to discuss the implementation of the agreements made with the Dawg Pack Task Force, Callahan said he doesn’t think the Dawg Pack Student Advisory Committee will provide enough student involvement in the athletics department’s decisions.
“I think [the student advisory committee] is helpful, but I’m not sure that it’s anything more than a sham for the athletics department to say they’re involving students,” Callahan said. “In the future, they need to involve students early on in the planning. At this point, I’m not really sure that it’s worth it.”
Callahan added that students should continue to voice their displeasure about the athletic department’s response to student input to the athletics department, and that the department needs to make more compromises in return for moving the student section.
The athletics department made promises to students other than the ticket prices and the scholarship program, including: complimentary transportation to Qwest Field, arranged by the athletics department for Dawg Pack ticket holders for the 2012 season during Husky Stadium construction, a discounted concession plan for Dawg Pack ticket holders, and a student-only entrance at the front of Husky Stadium.
The Dawg Pack Student Advisory Committee will continue to meet monthly with the athletics department, throughout the next school year, to discuss the implementation of agreements made between students and the department.
Reach reporter Sarah Schweppe at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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