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An effort to make students pay for improvements to the University of Montana's athletic facility were shot down by an all-campus student vote this week.

Students nixed the attempt to increase the athletic fee from $92 annually to $144 - with 1,442 votes against and 764 in support of the referendum.

The issue, which was originally brought forward by student athletes, came to light last month when UM's student government leaders agreed to the 56 percent increase without taking the matter to the full student body.

When the Associated Students of the University of Montana approved the increase, campus outrage ensued and the matter was put before a review committee, which found ASUM had veered outside its authority.

The issue was put to rest on Tuesday when the full campus got its say. However, there's a good chance it will come back to life next fall during a new academic year with a new student government, said Emily May, ASUM vice president.

"The vote means this issue won't go forward this year to the Montana Board of Regents," May said.

Although the athletic fee is already on the regents' May agenda because of the ASUM vote, it is unlikely they will take it up for discussion.

"It's within their power to take it up, but my guess is they won't," May said.

Had students approved the increased athletic fee, the additional funding would have paid for several things, among them: improved locker rooms for student athletes, a safer larger weight room, and a more hospitable student athlete academic center.

Although the funding didn't get approved, the facility and its locker rooms will get a coat of new paint and new carpeting, along with other minor repairs, said Jim O'Day, UM's athletic director.

"Of course we are disappointed by this, but I like to look at the bright side," O'Day said. "I'm proud of the way our student athletes went out after this issue.

"This gave them a chance to see the political process in play, and I'm proud of the way they took it upon themselves to leave the place better than it was when they got here."

Fundraising efforts will continue, and O'Day will continue to rally private donations to improve UM's athletic facilities, where student athletes spend so much of their campus time and where they find support to succeed as athletes and students.

"It is a difficult time for fundraising because of the economy," O'Day said. "But that won't stop us for doing the best we possibly can for this university and its students."

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