RMU students raise voices in protest of recreation facility fee


Photo credit: Paul Wintruba

Brittany Mayer, News Manager

It was announced in December 2016 that Robert Morris University would be building a recreation center on campus, and that a $125 fee per semester for resident students and a $60 fee per semester for commuter students would be added to all students’ tuition.

Now, students are raising their voices by petitioning the fee to create a formal proposal to send to President Christopher B. Howard.

RMU junior, Anna Gootz and friend, Carrie Barnhart, have posted a petition on Facebook to allow students to let their voices be heard. So far, the petition has 166 supporters, with 40 supporters stating their reason for signing.

“People are angry. They feel like they didn’t have a voice. I want to show them they do. Not only that but not only were many students misinformed, a lot of them had no idea these charges were even there,” Gootz said in an email. “I did it to raise awareness because I feel like there is a lack of communication that needs to be resolved.”

Jonathan Potts, vice president of RMU public relations and marketing, stated that the recreation facility was reported on often and that RMU was clear with the intent of creating a student fee that would fund the operations of the facility.

“The Student Government Association in 2013 first proposed a new student recreation and fitness center, and a survey of the student body at the time showed a majority supported paying a fee to support the new facility,” Potts said in an email. “Last fall, SGA worked closely with President Howard and other university leaders on the proposal for a student fee, which SGA overwhelmingly approved…60 in favor, 12 opposed, with four abstentions.”  

The new recreation facility is said to open at the beginning of the 2017-18 academic year and will have over 40,000 square feet of space for fitness activities, wellness programs and intramural sports.

Some students, like Kinsey Bowser and Joshua Dauer, know they would not use the space and feel the fee should not be added to their tuition.

“I feel like I shouldn’t have to pay for a gym I will never use,” Bowser said.

“I don’t use the fitness center and I should not have to pay for something I don’t use and for something I don’t agree to,” Dauer said.

In the petition, Gootz states how many people were not notified of the fee, but that it was just added onto students’ tuitions. Students like Jaime Yonkoske have expressed the same concerns.

“We were told that the new fitness center and the new arena were funded by sponsors and that our tuition would not go up, yet it has. I believe that we should not be charged for this, nor should those of us who are not planning to use the fitness center,” Yonkoske said.

Gootz went on in the petition to state that she understands the reasons for the fee, but that it should be on a person to person basis. She also offered suggestions, like programming students’ freedom cards to allow them into the gym once they pay the fee.

“I tried very hard to come up with a compromisable solution. I wanted to address the concerns of students, but I didn’t want it to be a big complaining festivity,” Gootz said in an email. “I wanted it to be noted that there are better ways to handle this kind of situation so I did my best to incorporate that. I tried very hard at first to not put blame on anyone in particular, but rather explain the situation and what could be done about it instead.”

The petition has over 166 signatures as of today. However, Gootz and Barnhart plan on sending the petition in a formal proposal to President Howard and the Board of Trustees. They hope to get over 1,000 signatures if possible.

Gootz has stated she is being realistic about the situation.

“So realistically, I am prepared for this petition to be ineffective with the chance of losing several connections, positions, friends, etc. On the opposite end of this spectrum, I am hopeful,” Gootz said in an email. “RMU is my world right now. My friends who are affected by this are my world right now. Financial struggles and student loans are my world right now. So I can hope for a change, not just for me, but for everyone involved and affected by this.”

If any students would like to read or post any thoughts on the recreation facility petition, visit the link HERE.