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Lamar students begin voting on fee for football
BEAUMONT - Our story begins in the middle. Not at the start, and not at the end, but in the middle.
As of 2:04 p.m. Tuesday, two of the first four polling places had closed at Lamar University, and students were well into shaping the future of their athletics department.
Will they ultimately pass a fee to bring back football? Or will Cardinal Stadium remain empty, as it has for 19 years?
It was the first day students voted on whether to approve a new athletics fee, which would charge each of them $8.75 per credit-hour beginning in fall 2009.
No one will know the results until Thursday morning. Actually, no one will be certain about football for quite some time after that.
By Tuesday afternoon, however, Tony Sarda had a chunk of the answer in his hands.
Sarda, vice president of Lamar’s Student Government Association, had been manning the voting table at the Setzer Student Center for a few hours. That polling area closed at 2 p.m. - and at 2:04, Sarda took the ballot-stuffed lockbox to the office of student affairs on the second floor.
Two other lockboxes were already there.
“The ballots will be in my office, behind (a) closed door,” said Jason Lambert, assistant vice president for student affairs at LU. “Nobody else goes in there.”
At the end of the day, all of the lockboxes went to the Lamar University Police Station, where they took up residence inside a safe.
Today, they’ll do it all over again.
Thursday morning, the ballots will go through a computer, which will tabulate the votes and unveil the results.
The referendum needs a simple majority to pass. If it does, the university will ask permission from the Texas State University System Board of Regents to start assessing the fee in the fall sememster of 2009. Students who pay the fee will get season passes for the first four years of Lamar football games - regardless of when they graduate. Games would begin in 2010.
“I’m all for it,” said Melanie Robertson, a 44-year-old nursing major. “It’s time we brought football back. It’s beyond time.”
Robertson wasn’t alone. In fact, she seemed to be in the majority.
Between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., in an unscientific survey, The Enterprise asked 100 students how they voted.
Sixty-three said they voted yes. Thirty-seven said they voted no.
“I’m from Dallas … and I came here because I heard this is a good school to graduate from,” said Danielle Ingram, a 19-year-old education major. “But college isn’t college without football.” OK, so even if the referendum passes, and even if the board of regents gives its OK, there’s the small matter of raising more money from private donors (Lamar will probably need millions to renovate its football facilities, which were largely untouched after football died in 1989).
But that detail was for a different week.
For many opponents, it didn’t seem to matter that this fee couldn’t go to something else. It also didn’t seem to matter that state money couldn’t go to athletics, which means the rest of their tuition is already going toward the academic side of the university.
For most advocates, cost seemed to be an afterthought. In fact, some students who voted yes didn’t even bother to read the fine print on the ballot - that next fall, they’d have to pay $8.75 per semester credit-hour to support it.
A handful of students didn’t even know about the vote until they stumbled into the polling areas.
Told the referendum was about Lamar football, one student said he was all for it. He skimmed over the ballot and snapped his head backward once he got deeper into the details - that in 2009, his tuition would rise.
“Oh, what the hell,” said the student, who voted yes but declined to give his name. Another student had a different opinion. At first, he quietly blended into a line, waiting for his turn to vote, then filled in his ballot and walked away. Minutes later, on his way out of the Setzer Center, he yelled to the crowd: “Vote no! You’re paying for enough already!”
Some other students echoed those sentiments, saying their money should go elsewhere on campus - or that it should stay in their pockets.
“I’m yes-and-no,” said junior David Burns, an industrial engineering major who ultimately voted no.
“I’d love to have football here, and my friends are all voting for it. But I’m not going to be here (when football starts), and the team isn’t going to be any good when they start anyway. And it’s just a matter of cost. Add it up. It’s worth about $600 to me.”
Still, even Burns said he doubted his side would win. Football, after all, is king in Texas, and it appeared as if much of the student body was ready to pay up for it.
“Oh, I know it’s going to pass,” Burns said. “The hype is too much by now.”
Nineteen years have elapsed since students watched a Lamar football game. They might do so again soon.
The end is in sight. Tuesday was their first chance to vote on it.
Today is their last.
Where & when
# The vote will happen in several places again today: From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., inside the Setzer Center and outside the science auditorium; From 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., in front of the dining hall; and from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., in front of the Gray Library.
# If you’re waiting for results today or Wednesday, don’t bother. Students will place their ballots in a lockbox, and the lockboxes will go to the campus police station. A computer will count the votes Thursday morning. Only then will the votes be counted and results announced.