Don’t infringe on our freedom: A libertarian critique of the SRC fee

Michelangelo Landgrave

The Student Recreation Center has been open for several weeks now, so surely everything that could be said about it has been said, no? To the contrary, little criticism about the recreational center has been made.

This semester, tuition went up by several hundred dollars, but how many students realize that a substantial portion of that increase was due to a mandatory SRC fee?  A $130 increase in tuition is hardly a negligible fee per semester at that. For its use during the spring and fall semester, students will pay no less than $260. An additional payment of $78 is needed for use during summer. Every semester after this one students will see an increase of $3 to the fees, a minuscule sum until one realizes that in a few years this will quickly add up.

One can find a gym membership at a better rate than the amount going to the above fee. Students interested in a year’s worth of access to the center will pay no less than $340. I myself paid $250 for 18 months at my local gym. Why would I choose to pay an extra hundred for an inferior product?

In earlier years, tuition increases of a similar amount were enough to cause protests by students, and yet there is no visible outrage over this. Why not? Is it because the recreational center provides a service? No, that can’t be it. Earlier increases to tuition, while largely unpopular, ultimately ensured that the college could stay afloat. Is it because students care about their physical fitness? That’s doubtful for anyone who observes the living habits of a typical college student.

One of the sillier arguments made in favor of the SRC is that it is convenient for students since it is on campus. Over 60 percent of students are commuters, many of them from very far areas like greater Los Angeles, Palmdale and Long Beach. True convenience for them would be a gym near their homes; do we owe them not at least the choice?

No economic argument can be made either. Private industry has several times completed massive projects without coercing would-be customers into paying for a service that they may or may not want. McDonalds has no guarantee that people will show to its restaurants on any given day, yet it builds new locations year round. Walt Disney had little guarantee that people would want to visit Disneyland, but he made it all the same. Both firms make profit, but are at constant risk of running massive losses should customers decide they don’t want Big Macs or Mickey Ears.

Why should the recreational center be above economic law? If people want to exercise they will gladly pay the center without need of coercion, and if they don’t want to why should they be forced to pay?

Supporters of the SRC fee may point to the fact that students voted in favor of building the center. This argument weakens when one considers that this referendum was held in April of 2007. Consider that a bachelor’s degree is meant to be a four year program, which means that any freshmen who voted in the referendum should have graduated in the spring of 2010. Even if one takes into account that the average time to receive a degree at CSUN is closer to six years, any such freshmen would be graduating this spring semester. All seniors, juniors and sophomores from back then have all left by now, and soon what freshmen remain will be gone too.

Proponents of the SRC may insist that the process was democratic all the same, but what principle of democracy could legitimize the present student body to the actions of past students? What principle of democracy legitimizes a small group to make decisions for the majority? Less than 2,000 students voted on the referendum back in 2007. At any given time, CSUN has around 35,000 students enrolled. This means that less than 6 percent of the student body back in 2007 voted on a tuition increase that will affect all students until the foreseeable future. Only a few dozen of those who voted in the referendum are still attending CSUN.

This criticism is written from a libertarian point of view, but flaws of the recreational center can be found by people of all political ideologies. Do conservatives not see the parallels between the hated individual mandate clause of Obamacare and this mandatory purchase of gym membership? Are there not liberals who cringe at the thought that people are being pushed into a lifestyle they do not want?

There can be no democratic principle that justifies any of this. Let us then do the right thing and remove the mandatory SRC fee.

–Michelangelo Landgrave is a junior majoring in economics. He is currently the president pro tempore of the CSUN Libertarian Club and a member of the Conservative Club. He is a Mexican immigrant to the United States.