The Priorities Committee has proposed granting half of the $100,000 requested for the operation of the newly renovated Dillon Gym fitness center, prompting questions about whether an increase in the gym's operating hours and staffing will be possible.
At Wednesday afternoon's U-Council meeting the Priorities Committee also recommended large increases in spending on financial aid, faculty and staff salaries, University libraries and career services.
The proposed $470,000 financial aid spending would increase aid to students from middle-class families beginning with the class of 2004. An additional $44,000 recommendation would factor in the cost of one trip home for international students in their financial aid travel budgets beginning next academic year.
President Shapiro and the University Board of Trustees must accept the spending recommendations of the Priorities Committee before they are implemented, but Shapiro and the trustees rarely object to items of the budget. USG president-elect PJ Kim '01 said he is "obviously disappointed" that the Priorities Committee did not recommend fully funding the fitness center request. The renovation of Dillon Gym, a pet project of Kim's, is among the top accomplishments of outgoing USG president Spencer Merriweather '00's administration.
The Priorities Committee declined to fully fund the fitness center request because of "resource constraints," according to its report.
Instead, the report said the committee chose to increase financial aid and raise faculty and staff salaries, among other objectives.
The $100,000 request for Dillon Gym was intended to keep use of the fitness center free for students and to expand significantly its hours and staffing. Vice President for Finance and Administration Dick Spies GS '72 said University administrators are "looking now to see how close they can come to that."
Although use of the fitness center will remain free of charge, Kim said, the previously announced increases in operating hours and staffing will be curtailed if more funding is not provided.
Kim said he is worried about reductions in the amount of additional staffing because "they're stretched pretty thin as it is."
"We don't want anyone getting hurt because students aren't being supervised properly," Kim said.
Spies said the gym would use "improvised staff arrangements" to compensate for part of the difference between the money request and the actual recommended funding.
Kim said he would pursue more funding from other sources.
Kim said the administration should consider the fitness center not only as a resource current students enjoy but as a tool for attracting the best students to come to the University, similar to the strategy of the financial aid program.