Update: the veto for the funding was overridden, and the city will go forward with its contribution to the new pool updates.
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.