I’m looking forward to playing a game of tennis indoors, swimming a couple of laps in the pool and working out on the new equipment, which we’ve heard described as a “purple and gray” version of Lifetime Fitness, once the Anderson Athletic and Recreation Complex opens.
But I’m one of the lucky ones because I graduate next year, not this year.
Every senior who graduates this year has experienced the smells, noises and inconveniences of the building’s construction but will most likely never get to use the athletic facilities – at least not without coughing up a lot of cash.
That’s not a fair trade. I know current students haven’t paid directly for the athletic complex, but they’ve paid for it indirectly. The money that was donated for the construction of the complex could also have been put toward scholarships or making tuition more affordable. But most students don’t mind because they know we need a new athletic complex. It’s just too bad seniors won’t get to experience the benefits.
We haven’t even had athletic facilities available this year. Sports teams have been practicing and playing games off campus, and students have been working out under the bleachers. The senior class deserves at least a year of free admission to the new facilities to make up for it.
But I think it would be in the university’s best interests to give every alumnus free access to the new athletic complex. I understand the university needs to make money off the athletic complex, which is why it will probably make alumni pay. The university isn’t considering the fact that alumni donations are more important than money from yearly athletic passes, though.
How do you get alumni to donate? By making them feel like they are still part of the campus. And what better way to make them feel like that than by offering free passes to the athletic complex?
Free access to the complex would draw alumni back to St. Thomas. They could work out in the new facilities, then take a walk around campus and relive old memories. They could talk with some students, grab a bite to eat at the new student center, and then, when that next phone call came asking for money, they’d feel more inclined to donate.
I’ve seen how this process works at other universities. My dad graduated from St. John’s, and we used to go up there as a family when I was younger to use the athletic facilities. He didn’t have to pay anything for himself or the rest of our family.
I’m reluctant to admit St. John’s is better than us at anything, but it did seem to work. My dad felt connected to his school and was more willing to donate because he thought St. John’s treated its alumni well.
In the long run, keeping the athletic facilities free for alumni would pay off at St. Thomas, too. Maintaining a positive relationship with alumni is more important than getting the extra money from alumni memberships.
Katie Broadwell can be reached at email@example.com.