Socioeconomic diversity may be threatened as a result of Quest athletics cuts

Current and former students say stopping the varsity sports program eliminates a way for people to enter via scholarships

Current and former student athletes are voicing concerns that the elimination of Quest University’s varsity athletics program will impact the school’s socioeconomic diversity.

Students say a significant amount of people gain entry to the school through the varsity athletic scholarship program.

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Eliminating the sports program closes a door that allows people with less cash to attend the university, which has steep tuition fees, students say.

The 2018 to 2019 cost for tuition is $35,000. With room and board, the price could be $53,500 or more, the school’s website says.

“I did have to use a scholarship to be able get there and to be able to get that education that I wanted,” said Shayna Cameron, a former student athlete at Quest who received financial aid for playing women’s basketball. “I think that they taking that away will limit a lot of lower-income students.”

Quest’s communications director, Jasmine Aimaq, reaffirmed the school’s commitment to diversity in an email.

“Quest is committed to making a greater push for diversity, as it’s a core part of our values,” said Aimaq.

“Athletics is not the only way to do that. We realize a less diverse student body may be one short-term effect of ending varsity, but we’re focused on growing and organizing our resources so we can recruit students from a wide variety of backgrounds across Canada and the world.”

The announcement that the school would be ending its varsity sports program was made on Thursday, and took many by surprise.

“We know this news will be a disappointment to fans of the Kermodes,” president George Iwama said in a news release that day.

“We’re grateful to our wonderful athletes, and to all of you who have cheered in the stands. When I could, I was in the stands with you. But endings signal beginnings too, and I look forward to inclusive, vibrant wellness initiatives that will serve the whole Quest family.”

Reasons for ending the varsity program include plans to reorganize resources to better serve the broader Quest community, the school said in the news release.

The university cannot do this and also sustain varsity in the way it needs and deserves, Iwama said.

Possibilities for the future include more focus on sports clubs and intramurals; RecPlex improvements; general health and wellness programs, such as fitness classes, or shuttle services to recreational areas.

The university said it will assemble a working group and seek input from students, faculty, staff, alumni, and others.

Quest will continue to offer the Leaders in Elite Athletics and Performance (LEAP) program.

In letters to parents and students sent after the announcement, Iwama said that the university’s board of governors has agreed to hold a meeting where students can voice their concerns.

A date for the meeting will be given in the near future, he said.

Iwama also said the board is considering the possibility of bringing alumni, students, staff and faculty on the board.

 It’s unclear what will happen to the majority of the coaching staff, but it appears as if the school will still have an athletic director and an associate athletic director.

Athletic director Jean-Francois Plouffe told The Chief he and Dany Charlery have jobs at the school.

As for the rest of the staff, the Quest communications department sent a statement to The Chief that said the school “will fully honour all of its contractual obligations to employees who work in varsity athletics.”

The school did not provide further details.

“I wanted to take a moment to write a note to all of you to let you know that I understand how frustrated, lost and angry you may feel about the recent news of varsity at Quest,” Plouffe wrote to students in an email.

“I want you to remember that you are strong, perseverant, [sic] and athletic. You are intelligent, supportive and you have grit.”

Cameron, who graduated in 2015, stressed that her time at Quest was very positive and that she remains supportive of the school, but hopes that varsity athletics can remain.

She also lamented how taking away sports could impact the sense of community at the school.

Cameron recalled that some of her fondest memories were made during games at the Kermode Cave — the nickname of the school gym. 

“It kind of brought everyone together,” said Cameron. “They were there supporting us. It was just, like, an unreal feeling to feel the support from our university.”

Similar sentiments were expressed by Kyle Kirkegaard, a Quest graduate who played women’s soccer for four years.

“I wouldn’t have been at Quest had I not played soccer,” Kirkegaard said. “You’re removing a significant portion of that community,” she said. “I think there’s quite a bit that will be lost in that way.”

“I think there will be a lost perspective to the whole educational model that comes in the classroom,” she added.

Kyra Boulding, a third-year student on Quest’s women’s basketball team had a pointed reaction to the news.

“We lose not only the diversity and community that comes with programs like athletics, but also so many close friends, who leave because Quest has shut down the programs that brought us to this school,” reads an email from Boulding, which was sent to both The Chief and Quest.

“I have lost my senior year but others were barely scraping together tuition and for them this decision has robbed them not only of their athletic future but also of their academic future.”

Allie Chalke, an alumni who played varsity basketball at Quest, also had a number of concerns.

“This decision is a sad preview of the future of Quest. A less inclusive, more elitist, more isolated school that no longer sees value in the ideas it was founded on,” said Chalke in a letter to Quest, which was also given to The Chief.

“I am profoundly disappointed. I want to plead with you. The university as I know it will not survive this.”

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