EDITORIAL: Cuts to Level II athletics are a sign of things to come

Editorial/Opinion by

Next year’s projected budget for McGill Athletics (see cover story), which includes a 67 per cent funding cut for Level II varsity sports, is a sign that the first round of funding cuts have begun at McGill, as the university attempts to reduce a projected $14-million deficit within the next year.

To recover a small portion of the deficit, McGill will recoup at least an additional $285,000 from the Athletics department through funding cuts and the new Overhead Recovery Fee. This will be reflected in the Athletics budget largely through a $147,871 decrease in funding for Level II teams. This cut will likely require several varsity teams to fold, or to ask their athletes to pay for more of the costs of travel, uniforms, and tournaments.

Unfortunately for Level II teams, athletic opportunity has to be proportionate to interest and success. The list of Level I teams at McGill correlates fairly well with the amount of fan interest, alumni donations, and national-level victories that they generate. Most Canadian and American universities focus the vast majority of their varsity funding on six to 10 “top-level” teams, and if McGill Athletics wants to build a successful varsity athletic program, then they can’t afford to do things differently. While we’re sympathetic to the many student-athletes affected by these cuts, under the circumstances the Tribune feels that McGill Athletics made the right decision.

Ideally, we would like to see a clear separation between “elite” and Level II teams. There are some programs currently in Level I, such as women’s basketball, with little history of success and almost no hope of competing at the national level. McGill Athletics should move them and other underachieving teams down a level, and redistribute the savings.

Much more troubling than the hardships facing some varsity teams is that the cuts to Athletics recover less than three per cent of the $14-million projected deficit facing the university this year. McGill is required by the provincial government to have a balanced budget by 2011, so these cuts are just the start of a long process of budget slashing.

We are extremely worried that these cuts will adversely affect the quality of education at McGill, as well as the calibre of student life and student services. If we want to maintain the campus culture that we enjoy, we have to be willing to pay for it. McGill’s ancillary fees are already the highest in Quebec, so the only solution is to increase the cost of tuition.

It’s time to stop living in a dream world. If the provincial government is unwilling to increase their investment in universities they must allow them to raise tuition. Students should never face American-style tuition costs, but moderate increases to Quebec-resident and out-of-province tuition wouldn’t reduce accessibility, and would stop McGill from potentially having to make substantial cuts in areas like athletics, food services, and health services.

If we’re ever going to get the university that we want, we’re going to have to be willing to pay for it. Otherwise we better be prepared for cuts that are much more substantial than the ones made to the Athletics program this week.