The incidental fees for the Department of the Recreation, Athletics and Wellness Centre (RAWC), which are mandatory for all students, have increased 16.3 per cent in the past four years, seeing a $57.28 increase in yearly fees since the 2016-2017 academic year.
Sonia Borg, director of Finance and Operations and Renu Kanga Fonseca, director of Strategy and Sport Wellness, said that the increases in fees are due to a multitude of reasons including the expansion of services and employment opportunities.
“Since 2016, the department has grown in its offerings, so it offers far more drop-in fitness classes, all of which now, in the last year and a half, are free, so we’re not charging anything for these drop-in classes. In the past we used to for certain ones,” said Borg.
“We’ve increased the number of intramural sports that are offered on campus and expanded the hours of our membership desk,” continued Borg.
The largest increase in the RAWC fees occurred in the 2018-2019 academic year, which saw a 10.3 per cent ($18.58 per semester, $37.16 per year) increase in fees. This is a significant increase when compared to the previous year, which had only increased by two per cent ($3.51 per semester, $7.02 per year).
Borg explained that the largest increase took place after they went through the Quality Services to Students (QSS) consultation process and addressed the rising issues. The increased funding was utilized to provide athletes with more support both academically and through services like athletic therapy, which can help with concussion management.
“Always our fees are reflective of the priorities of the department and the priorities are established through that QSS process,” said Borg.
“We also hired a communications specialist to be able to provide more information as to what the RAWC has to offer to the UTM community, and some facility renovations [were done] that had been deferred in prior years,” continued Borg.
Renu Kanga Fonseca discussed the new programs and initiatives that the department has been pursuing and introduced the new virtual fitness program that will be showcased during the Exam Jam for the first time.
“That’s a new initiative that will expand the offerings to students. Some of the fitness classes are at scheduled times, and that may or may not fit everybody’s schedule,” said Fonesca. “So, having virtual fitness is sort of an on-demand way of students getting the benefit of something that is otherwise like a class.”
The virtual fitness program will also be available to students even when the RAWC isn’t.
“When we’re closed during the winter holidays, the virtual fitness will be there and available around the clock for students because we have fewer offerings during that time when we’re closed,” said Fonseca.
Although the decision has yet to be finalized, Sonia Borg stated that the RAWC wasn’t expecting a large hike in fees.
“So, for 2020-21 we’re looking at only a 1 per cent increase,” said Borg.
Borg also discussed the measures of control and policies regarding the fee increases and stated that the University of Toronto Wide Long-Term Protocol on the Increase or Introduction of Compulsory Non-Tuition Related Fees, usually referred to as “the Protocol,” limits the amount of fee increases that departments can seek out.
Over the past few years the RAWC has utilized their increased funding and has had many accomplishments in the process, from the implementation of the Varsity program to the Wellness Routes in partnership with the Health and Counselling Centre.
However, one of the biggest points of pride for the department is being the largest employer of students on campus.
“The department wouldn’t run without all the student staff that we have and are able to employ and provide experiences for. [These experiences] help them in their own growth and development with looking for jobs down the road, and [they also] help them out financially while they’re students,” said Fonseca.
“We have 400 positions at various points in time through the year,” added Borg.
The department also has several renovations coming up, including the creation of an Eagles team room and the combination of the membership and control desks at the RAWC.
“In [the] future we plan to refresh the lobby and expand meeting spaces for students, and we have some larger repairs and replacements that we will need to look at, such as the roof. We will have to replace the roof,” concluded Borg.