Rec center approved by students, but concerns remain

The students have spoken, but some feel they couldn’t get a word in edge-wise.

Although Chico State University students voted in favor of the new Wildcat Activity Center last week by a margin of 2-1, some still say the 120,000-square-foot facility is a bad idea.

Chico State student Annie Sherman and other members of Students for a Responsible Referendum (SRR) say the campaign was biased and have filed a formal grievance in response to the results of the special election.

“We hope the election gets thrown out,” Sherman said. “But our main priority is fair elections.”

As for the center itself, Sherman says construction of the $55 million facility couldn’t come at a worse time, with budget cuts looming. She said she likes certain components of the center, like an indoor track, but that the project could have been scaled back.

“We’re supposed to be an affordable school system,” Sherman said.

Associated Students President Adam Dondro said if the university waits any longer the cost is only going to rise through inflation.

He said that, while he understands the concerns of future students who will pay the $175-per-semester hike beginning in fall 2008, it’s always been how elections work.

“The nature of being a student is voting for the future of the university,” Dondro said.

But Sherman and other members of Students for a Responsible Referendum are more concerned with how the election itself was conducted.

She said the Associated Students is entitled to conduct a “yes” campaign but should have spent money on both sides. Instead, she said those opposed to the center had to rely on local gym owners to help fund a “no” campaign.

Scott Schofield, who opened the North Valley Athletic Club in 1978, also opposed a similar, $65 million recreation center proposal in 2001 that was ultimately shot down by students unwilling to pay for something that wouldn’t be built in time for them to use.

Schofield said he’s opposed to the center simply because, as a government entity, the university has an unfair competitive advantage because it doesn’t have to worry about the same things as businesses in the private sector like paying insurance and property tax.

He said the new center will also cut into his student demographic, explaining that students aren’t going to pay for a health club membership when they’re already paying for an on-site recreation center.

“It will put me out of business in a short period of time,” Schofield said.

The special election referendum, conducted by the Associated Students, was held on March 8 and 9, with 67 percent of 4,832 students voting in favor.

Another concern among those opposing the center was with the ballots themselves.

Marissa Beach, a senior at Chico State, also filed a letter of grievance. She said the ballots lack pro and con arguments as well a statement of the fiscal impact, which, she says, is deceiving to students. She said the Election Council also violated the ethics code by not holding at least one open forum before the election.

The grievances are to be reviewed by the AS Board of Directors, which will decide if they are to be heard, before getting passed on to Chico State President Paul Zingg.

But Beach said she believes her letter won’t make it very far.

"How are my grievances going to be heard if the Board of Directors consists of people who campaigned in favor of the rec center?"