The University of Memphis’ aquatics facility has become the centerpiece of a political battle in the city, with University President M. David Rudd and Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris publicly sparring over funding for renovations.
Harris has vetoed a grant that would provide $1 million of funding to the University of Memphis because several local groups called on him to oppose the project until the University of Memphis presents a timeline to raise the school’s minimum wage to what they consider a “living wage.”
Curently there are over 300 university employees making $11.11 an hour. Shelby County calculates that a “living wage” is $11.07 per hour for a single adult with no children and $22.09 for an adult with one child.
“I believe issues of poverty that continue to persist in our community are interconnected to decisions like this one,” Harris wrote in a letter explaining his decision. “Most of the University of Memphis employees in question are women and most are African-American. Many of these workers, no doubt, have children and families who rely on their work.”
In response, Rudd said that the veto “represents a potential serious ethical breach for our University and a potential violation of an accreditation standard,” and declared that he reports to the Board of Trustees, not the county mayor.
The Shelby County Commissioners will vote on a veto override at their July 22nd meeting. Rudd wrote in a letter to Harris that the university already has a plan in place to increase the hourly wage to $15 an hour in the coming years.
The University of Memphis does not currently have a varsity or collegiate club swimming program, put they do sponsor a club water polo team. Their facilities also are host to the USA Swimming club Memphis Tiger Swimming. The school’s aquatics complex has an outdoor 50-meter pool, an indoor 50-meter pool, a 4-foot deep aqua aerobics pool, and an outdoor 25-yard diving well.