About 3,000 people have signed a petition calling on Towson University to refund a mandatory $499 athletics fee now that the university has suspended fall sports due to the coronavirus.
Miriam Williams, a rising sophomore from Prince George’s County , said she was surprised the fee was still in place given the financial hardships students are facing due to coronavirus. She said she created the petition out of a “place of empathy” in addition to her “own personal struggles.”
“Campus capacity has been limited and a majority of students cannot return and must figure out a housing situation on their own,” said Williams. who is a political science major with a minor in African American studies. “With already no reduction in tuition, I was very surprised when I learned that the fee would be kept in place. ...
“Books, technology, rent and transportation are only a few of the things that college students have to worry about and it can add up very quickly. Quite frankly, I don’t know why it is a question whether or not we will get our money back.”
Sean Welsh, Towson University’s Interim Vice President for Marketing and Communications, said in a statement Monday that the current plan is to keep the fee in place for the fall semester.
“TU remains committed to providing support for all student-athletes, teams and coaches as part of our charge as a nationally-ranked, Division I university. As such, athletics fees will remain in place this semester to help honor that commitment,” he said.
The athletics fee is in place to support 20 intercollegiate athletic programs at the NCAA’s Division I level, with Towson belonging to the Colonial Athletic Association for the majority of those sports and the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference for track. The CAA cancelled the fall football season on Friday, but is allowing its member schools to schedule sports independently. Towson decided to opt against an independent schedule and additionally is suspending play in field hockey, volleyball, women’s cross country and women’s soccer.
Towson’s website lists the fee along with other mandatory payments for full-time undergraduate students.
“All students are admitted free to all TU sporting events,” according to the website. “A $499 per term Athletics Fee is assessed to all full-time undergraduate students taking 12 or more units. Undergraduate students taking less than 12 units are assessed $45 per unit up to a maximum of $499 per term for the Athletics Fee. Undergraduate students taking approved graduate-level courses are assessed $45 per graduate unit for the Athletics Fee.”
Towson is planning to offer both remote and in-person learning during the fall 2020 semester, with a modified academic calendar that includes classes beginning a week earlier on Aug. 24 and shifting to a fully remote learning experience after Thanksgiving break on Nov. 30.
Hunter Rooney, a senior at Towson, believes that the fee is fine during any normal situation. However, with COVID-19 postponing Fall sports indefinitely, he doesn’t think that the fees are justified at this moment.
“I feel like it’s something that at the very least the fee should be reduced because the athletics fee is meant in part to allow students to attend athletics events free of charge. But now there’s none to attend and we still spend that money,” said Rooney. “I believe that it is important for athletes to still receive scholarship money and there are necessities for programs and fields to be maintained, but forcing students to pay for it when they get little out of it is wrong.”