As Brandon University prepares to open the Healthy Living Centre up to the student body and the wider community next month, some students are questioning the mandatory user fee.
BU students will have to pay a $35 fee per term for the HLC, whether they use it or not.
“I don’t agree with the mandatory part,” said second-year student Andrew Madill. “I think that if you’re going to use it, you should have to pay for it.”
Madill said he will definitely check out the new facility, but was hoping to get a preview before he had to pay.
Students received a campus-wide email on Friday explaining the fees coming into effect next term, which were to be charged to their account Monday.
The email states that members will have access to the fitness centre which hosts state-of-the-art cardio equipment, beginner to advanced weight and strength training equipment, indoor track, towel service, open gym options and a selection of campus recreation opportunities.
“The fee is $35 per term to a maximum of $70 per year. This fee is mandatory, non-refundable and will be charged to all on-campus students, full-time and part-time,” states the email from BU’s financial and registration services.
That means if students are here for the entire 12 months, their gym membership works out to roughly $6 per month.
First-year student Leah Sun was surprised to hear about the fee.
“I thought it would be free for Brandon University students,” she said. “I didn’t know it would cost the students money. It should be free.”
Meanwhile, other students say a $35 fee for an entire term of gym use is very inexpensive and are looking forward to using the brand-new facility.
“Just comparing to other gyms, I think it’s a pretty reasonable fee for all the new equipment and everything in there,” said Lonna Drummond, a first-year student. “They need to have some money to keep it in the shape it’s in right now.”
Other gym memberships in the city are in the range of $30-$50 per month.
Drummond said it would be fair for the university to have an option to opt-out of the HLC fee if students are not planning on using it.
“I have a friend taking classes at the Y ... and she probably won’t want to switch,” Drummond said.
Brandon University Students’ Union president Carissa Taylor said the HLC fees have been a contentious issue around campus.
Back in 2008, BUSU conducted a non-binding plebiscite, asking students if they would be willing to pay a mandatory fee for use of the HLC. The completion date of the new facility was originally to be in 2009.
“Obviously 2009 came and went and there was no HLC,” Taylor said. “So students at the time voted ‘yes’.”
Last March during BUSU elections, the question was asked again.
“I think it was a fairly slim margin,” Taylor said. “Students said they would not be willing to pay this fee, but at the time the fee had already been implemented by the board of governors.”
Taylor said she would have liked to see the decision made closer to the time that the facility was completed.
“If you’re going to be implementing a fee, it would be more beneficial to find out from students who would actually be paying the fee and using the facility than asking students years before it was completed, who will never be paying that fee,” she said.
Taylor said reactions are mixed among students. Many feel that the university should implement an opt-out policy.
“I think that there are a lot of kinks that the university needs to work out,” Taylor said. “We had some nursing students call us who, because of their practicum, are off-campus a lot of the time and so they don’t feel like they should have to pay the mandatory fee.”
Scott Lamont, the university’s vice-president of administration and finance, said “opting out is not an option.”
“The university, on the basis of the decision that was made four years ago, took a course of action,” he said. “They asked students whether they would all be willing to pay a small fee so that no individual student would have to pay hundreds of dollars.”
While it’s inevitable that there will be some students who won’t use the facility, Lamont said it’s part of making up a community.
“We all pay taxes, we contribute to our parks, hospitals and schools,” he said. “It’s a very modest fee.”
If students are based outside of Brandon on a practicum, they will not have to pay.
The funds will go toward facility operations. The low fee, Lamont said, will hopefully encourage more people to come try out the facility.