ASUCI Angry Over Transfer of Bren to Athletics Department

On Sept. 1, after almost two years of negotiations, management of the Bren Events Center was officially transferred from the Office of Student Affairs to the Department of Athletics.
However, according to the Office of Student Affairs these changes were made in students’ best interest, not in spite of them.
‘Changes to the Bren Center administrative reporting are part of the chancellor’s ongoing efforts to make UC Irvine a flagship campus,’ explained Dan Dooros, interim executive director of Student Affairs Auxiliary Services. ‘By bringing together the facilities and people of the Bren with the Department of Athletics, I understand the intention is to enhance the campus intercollegiate athletics program, which helps to promote a vibrant campus life for students.’
Although this change was made more than three weeks before classes began, students were upset that they were not officially notified, and many clubs that have frequently used the Bren in previous years were forced to rely on word-of-mouth for information regarding the change.
Now that management of the Bren has become a component of the athletics department, many student organizations are worried that the function of the facility will shift from serving multiple purposes to one that serves mainly athletic needs.
‘The purpose the Bren is supposed to serve might change,’ explained Gabriel Ayass, president of ASUCI. ‘It might be seen more as an athletics facility instead of a multi-purpose facility.’
According to Ayass, students pay a mandatory $23 fee, which is included in their registration fees every quarter, for maintenance of the Bren. This leaves Ayass and many other students wondering why, if students pay for maintenance and use of the Bren, they were never officially informed that changes in management were being made regarding the facility.
‘This makes me disgruntled because student money was originally what built the Bren and essentially I feel, and it’s the feeling of many students, that [student affairs has] turned [its] back on what the Bren was supposed to do, which is to be a multi-purpose facility for students,’ Ayass said.
Many student organizations on campus are left wondering if the changes in the Bren’s management will be harmful or beneficial for them.
Mara Lising, a third-year film studies major and secretary of Kababayan, is particularly concerned with how these changes might affect her organization’s annual Pilipino Cultural Night.
‘If [the fees are] not increased, I definitely know that it’s going to be a lot harder [to book the Bren] because the management we’ve been working with already knows what kind of events [we hold] and what our reputation is,’ Lising said. ‘Right now we’re going to be dealing with an entirely different group of people. So it’s going to be a hard transition.’
With the question of rental fee increases on their minds, many leaders of student organizations can’t help but wonder if preferential treatment is being given to the athletic programs.
Bob Chichester, director of the Department of Athletics and Campus Recreation, counters this claim by reminding opponents that since athletic teams are comprised of students, attempting to enhance athletic programs is beneficial to students at UCI.
‘Intercollegiate athletics is all about supporting students,’ Chichester said. ‘What we have to recognize is that intercollegiate athletics is made up of 23 athletic programs with over 500 student athletes. So when we say ‘Well, who’s using the Bren?’ when we’re referring to intercollegiate athletics, it’s students. Students that just happen to be athletes. It’s probably a little unfair to say that there are unfair preferences given.’
However, in accordance with an agreement made on Jan. 1, 1999, between the Office of Student Affairs and the athletics department, the athletics department is entitled to use the Bren for a number of events without paying rental fees, including a men’s and women’s basketball coaching clinic, Midnight Magic and both men’s and women’s basketball practices.
According to Ayass, the athletics department should not be allowed to use the Bren for free while other student organizations, which also contribute to a ‘vibrant’ student life, are forced to pay rental fees.
‘If [they are] running the lights and running the air conditioning and running whatever else that goes on in the Bren that is basically incurring costs to run the facility, athletics should pay for that,’ Ayass said. ‘There is no excuse for them not paying for something like that.’
Aside from disputes over whether the Bren’s rental fees are fair and equal between different groups on campus, both the Office of Student Affairs and the Department of Athletics are assuring students that neither policy nor rental fees will change.
‘The policies and bylaws of the Bren that enable student involvement will stay intact,’ Dooros said. ‘In terms of usage, students and other users can expect business as usual, including the excellent quality service from the Bren Center team.’
When asked if fees for use of the Bren were expected to rise, Chichester emphatically replied, ‘No.’ In fact, Chichester assures students that the athletics department is looking for ways to make the Bren easier, not more difficult, to use for student groups on campus.
‘We are in the process right now, as we’re starting this transition, to look into how we [can] consider enhancing access and use of the Bren,’ Chichester said.