Policy changes for hiring club sports coaches left some clubs scrambling for funds last semester—and now the student councils say they’re getting involved.
The four undergraduate student councils are looking into compensating the Club Sports Governing Board for the added costs from last semester’s changes, which included making club sports instructors part-time University employees, giving them the title “coaches” instead of “independent recreational consultants,” and providing them with limited University insurance.
The changes meant that the clubs had to pay into a pool for certain fringe benefits, including health benefits and disability insurance, that the University provides to full-time employees. Since the coaches are only considered part-time, however, they don’t receive the benefits their clubs are paying for.
Club members and leaders have been less than pleased.
Columbia College Student Council President Learned Foote, CC ‘11, said that representatives from equestrian and sailing clubs, as well as members of the CSGB, have voiced their concerns to the council.
“The first move would hopefully be to not shift that cost to students in general, but if that can’t be the case we’re going to look into financing it,” said Brandon Christophe, CC ‘12, vice president of finance for CCSC.
Alexandra Voss, BC ’11 and president of the CSGB, called it a well–intentioned policy that hadn’t been thought through.
“It’s well-intentioned because it reduces paperwork and organizationally it makes more sense to have the coaches that the clubs hire to be coaches instead of consultants,” she said. “It’s better for them because they have some insurance protection. However, it’s not well thought through because the costs on the program are going to be pretty severe.”
Ava Ferenci, BC ’11, vice president of finance for the CSGB and member of the ski club, said that the new policy went into effect two days before the fall semester began, leaving the CSGB with an extra cost of $31,000.
She said that the club sports budget for the 2010-11 school year was around $250,000, a number that had been set since last spring.
“We ended up having a tight budget, which we weren’t expecting,” Ferenci said, adding that CSGB started an action committee last semester to deal with the issue.
The total budget for club sports comes from Funding at Columbia, a body of student government members that decides how to allocate the student life fees that all Columbia students pay. Additionally, the CSGB receives a $40,000 allocation from the Barnard athletics department.
But CSGB and club members say they have been frustrated by the fact that they do not know where the policy change came from within the administration.
“We were never given a full explanation, nor can I say that the club sports administration was ever given a full explanation as to why this needed to happen,” said former equestrian club co-captain Diana Greenwald, CC ’11.
Brian Jines, the director of intramurals and club sports, deferred comment to an athletics department spokesperson, who didn’t respond to request for comment.
The University’s 40 club sports teams include archery, rugby, cycling, racquetball, and water polo. The clubs that have been hit hardest are the equestrian and sailing teams, which incurred $7,500 and $9,800 in new costs, respectively.
The equestrian club receives one of the highest allocations of any club sport, but Greenwald said that most of that goes to pay the salary of their coach, Penny Kinnally. Greenwald expressed anger at the fact that students’ money from dues and fundraising are being redirected toward paying the fringe costs.
“We finally were going to break even this year with our increased allocation. We ran the numbers, it looked really good, and then they slapped this on us,” she said.
In addition, Greenwald said the extra insurance costs were redundant, since Kinnally is a private contractor who already had insurance tailored to the risks associated with being a riding instructor.
“We’re double-covered, and the Columbia policy is inferior to Penny’s existing policy, so it’s both frivolous and not conceived for an equestrian sport,” Greenwald said.
Ferenci said her own club, skiing, has been forced to make budget cuts despite an increase in membership.
“It’s really hard on these clubs. They’re making it by this semester and they’ll make it by this year, but it’s not sustainable for them to pay this much,” she said.