Referendum to increase outdoor recreation fee

In the ASMSU spring elections, which will take place March 3-4, students will have the opportunity to vote on a referendum to increase the Outdoor Recreation fee and to make it a fee-based program. This referendum will be on the same ballot as the ASMSU president, vice president and senator elections.

According to Outdoor Recreation Director Ryan Diehl, who assumed his position in the spring of 2013, the size and scope of MSU’s Outdoor Recreation program are significantly smaller than those of other schools in the region, including Brigham Young University-Idaho, Idaho State University, Weber State University, University of Idaho, University of Montana, Eastern Washington University, Utah State University and the University of Wyoming. These schools are competing with MSU for student enrollment, and Diehl indicated that increased Outdoor Recreation program availability would be beneficial in student recruitment. In a survey conducted in October of 2013, student responses indicated that a majority desire increased equipment and services available from Outdoor Recreation and would be willing to pay an increased fee. Based on these results, Diehl moved forward with an expansion proposal.

Diehl indicated ways in which increased revenue would provide for program diversification and for increased safety and training, which contribute to Outdoor Recreation’s mission statement: ASMSU Outdoor Recreation Program is dedicated to providing Montana State University students and community with opportunities for adventure, discovery, personal growth and engagement via human-powered outdoor adventure pursuits. In an expansion overview document, Diehl stated, “With the passage of a fee-based funding referendum, the Outdoor Recreation Program will be able to markedly improve its service to Montana State University students and the university community.”

One priority for Outdoor Recreation’s expansion is increasing the equipment inventory. Diehl hopes to purchase a variety of new equipment such as alpine skis, Telemark skis, snowboards, skate skis, ice climbing and mountaineering equipment, whitewater kayak equipment, winter clothing and accessories, mountain bikes and accessories, rock climbing equipment, fly fishing equipment and backpacking equipment.

Additionally, Outdoor Recreation proposes to coordinate more group outings, events and leadership opportunities as well as training for leaders of these programs. Potentially, for-credit outdoor activity courses could be offered to students. Outdoor Recreation aims to keep its trip and rental fees at a reasonable price for students.

With the passing of the referendum, Outdoor Recreation would become a fee-based program.  Each semester, all full-time MSU students pay a student activity fee. ASMSU allocates this money to fund its programs. Additionally, some of ASMSU’s programs are fee-based, which means that students pay a supplementary fee each semester designated specifically to that program. Fee-based programs are, therefore, not funded by the regular student activity fee.

Currently, ASMSU’s fee-based programs are the Exponent, Recreational Sports and Fitness, Streamline Bus Service and the Office of Sustainability. During the fall 2013 semester, ASMSU voted to add Outdoor Recreation to this list, pending student approval.

The proposed Outdoor Recreation fee is $8.00 from each full-time MSU student per semester. For the 2014 fiscal year, the amount of money allocated per semester to Outdoor Recreation was $3.52 per student. If Outdoor Recreation becomes a fee-based program, the money from the student fee previously allocated to Outdoor Recreation will become available to fund other ASMSU programs.

The referendum has been approved by the ASMSU executives, Funding Board and Senate. The student body as a whole has the final say in this matter and will decide whether or not Outdoor Recreation should become a fee-based program and make the proposed expansions.