Sydney University Sport and Fitness (SUSF) is, by most definitions, a student organisation: one with an annual turnover in the multi-millions managing seven large facilities.
Receiving almost $4 million this year from the Student Services and Amenities Fee (SSAF) and purportedly existing to serve USYD staff and students, this body has a monopoly on university fitness programs. SUSF is registered with the Australian Charities & Not-for-profit Commission as a charity, and is eligible for income tax exemptions and GST concessions.
Despite taking $85 every year from every full-time student (the amount of your SSAF that gets allocated to SUSF), there is little means of communication between this entity and those who fund it. Their mechanisms, funding sources, and priorities are unknown, their use of our money almost entirely opaque.
Functioning completely autonomously from the university proper, there is little accountability for the SUSF administration’s behaviour and, although stakeholders in the organisation, non-members have no sway over priorities and resource allocation.
While large scholarships are provided to hundreds of the sporting elite, membership costs remain prohibitive. Use of the pool alone costs $352 yearly, playing in the soccer leagues runs $500, and gym membership is comparable to for-profit companies, even though the facilities are entirely owned and maintained by the University. Individuals in the Elite Athlete Program sometimes receive access to tutoring, academic representation (including appealing fail marks), and may be awarded international travel grants. Estimates put non-USYD recipients at 15% of the 400 beneficiaries.
Of the 50 000 students here, how many care for our university’s sporting success? Of those, how many are of the opinion we should devote significant financial resources to that success?
Although registered as a charity, there is very little financial data of any substance publicly available on this sporting behemoth. SUSF employs a Social Media Co-ordinator, a Marketing & Membership Manager and a Corporate Relations Manager. However, all of Honi’s requests for information and comment were summarily rebuffed or entirely ignored.
Annual reports are bereft of any data on revenues and profits, while even membership numbers are elusive. Clearly, marketing outlay is massive –considering the glitzy website, heavy O-Week presence and proliferation of membership campaigns.
An apparently charitable organisation that runs on our money should have nothing to hide, least of all from the people who it allegedly exists to serve. Is the University getting a reasonable return on its massive outlay? Without information there is no way of knowing but it is difficult to reconcile a position of essential monopoly and definite influence over the student body with this complete lack of transparency.
SUSF is a student organisation, like the USU and SRC; the difference is that you must be an SUSF member (which costs $55 per year) to vote in their elections. You do not need to be a member of the USU or SRC to vote in the elections for these organisations. SSAF payers are stakeholders in all three organisations. The facilities are ours, the money is ours.
The organisation should be ours.