Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.
Recently, University of Maryland DOTS announced significant cuts to widely used Shuttle-UM bus routes. A revenue sharing arrangement between Department of Transportation Services and the athletic department is partially to blame. As students and university senators, we strongly urge the university administration to approve a proposal that would rightfully restore half of DOTS’ budget deficit. Not only should the proposal be approved, but it should go into full effect for the upcoming fiscal year.
Currently, all parking revenue generated from game-day events is split evenly between DOTS and athletics, after expenses. Last year, athletics received $380,000 from parking, which should have been put toward covering more than half of DOTS’ $700,000 budget shortfall. In 2015-16, athletics brought in more than $94 million in revenue. The university is also investing $155 million in the renovation and expansion of Cole Field House, directly resulting in the loss of 250 parking spaces and their associated revenue. The athletic department does not need to take any more money from DOTS to survive.
Although similar agreements exist at other Big Ten universities, they do not exist between DOTS and other departments responsible for revenue-generating events. Events hosted by the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, Stamp Student Union and other campus entities that generate parking revenue do not get to keep a portion of the profits. Athletics is in no way inherently different from or more deserving than other departments. This agreement is just another example of athletics flexing its inflated ego at the expense of students.
To remedy “parking fees corruptly subsidizing the Athletics Department,” physics professor and university Senator Thomas Cohen submitted a proposal to the University Senate in November to eliminate the revenue sharing agreement and allocate all revenue to Transportation Services. The Campus Transportation Advisory Committee — a group composed of representatives from the Student Government Association, Residence Hall Association, Graduate Student Government, faculty and staff — deliberated the proposal in March.
When questioned at the CTAC meeting about what would be cut if the department did not receive the $380,000, a representative from the athletic department declined to offer specifics. Instead, he speculated that nutritional programs for student athletes and the department’s game-day recycling program would be the first to go. His lack of specificity gave the impression that athletics does not take the threat of losing $380,000 seriously and they can more than afford to take this minor hit.
The programs the athletics representative mentioned are beneficial to campus life, but the money would better serve students through Shuttle-UM. By ending the agreement, DOTS would have enough money to restore weekend #104 College Park Metro Station service three times over. Additionally, the #133 Mall at Prince George’s route only costs $15,828 and is one of the few ways students without cars can freely access grocery stores like Whole Foods and Safeway. There is no question that $380,000 in the hands of DOTS does a great deal more for students than in the hands of athletics.
CTAC unanimously voted in favor to end the agreement, but the proposal must now be approved by administration. On Thursday, SGA President Jonathan Allen made a statement urging the approval of CTAC’s recommendation. We support his call to the administration, but will add that the proposal should go into effect immediately for the upcoming fiscal year. Students who rely on Shuttle-UM cannot wait for more money to be phased in over the next few years.
Without a comprehensive bus system, this university will no longer be the sustainable and accessible campus it strives to be. By no means is athletics entirely to blame for Shuttle-UM service cuts, but their current revenue sharing agreement only stifles DOTS further.
Olivia Delaplaine is a junior government and politics and language education major and a current undergraduate University Senator. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jane Lyons is a senior economics major and the former undergraduate University Senate representative to the Campus Transportation Advisory Committee. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Ben Reichard is a junior government and politics major and the current undergraduate University Senate representative to the Campus Transportation Advisory Committee. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.