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Fall Academic Senate meeting to focus on Intercollegiate Athletics

| 28 October 2009

The Berkeley division of the Academic Senate will focus next week on the contributions and costs of the campus's Intercollegiate Athletics program.

The Senate's fall meeting is designed to be a fact-based discussion, debate, and exchange among faculty, Athletics Director Sandy Barbour, and Nathan Brostrom, vice chancellor for Administration.

"The current financial climate is generating legitimate questions and concerns about Cal Athletics' financials, academic performance and impact on philanthropy," Barbour said in a recent letter to the Senate.

To begin to address these concerns and questions, a comprehensive set of data and information was distributed to the faculty and key media outlets earlier this week in preparation for Thursday's session.

The 22-page question-and-answer document (PDF) covers such topics as the costs of the program; the current deficit and plans to address it; the academic performance of student-athletes; details of the athletics department's budget cuts and reductions this year; and the extent to which the athletics budget is funded by the chancellor and other campus sources.

The document also describes the non-financial contributions of the program to the entire Cal community. "I believe deeply in the campus's commitment to excellence in every endeavor," wrote Barbour. "I wanted to work at a university where the phrase 'student athlete' is not an oxymoron and Intercollegiate Athletics is an integral and fully integrated part of campus life."

Next week's meeting will provide a forum to address questions about the benefits the intercollegiate sports program brings to the campus as a whole and its contribution to the overall student experience.

The Q&A cites data from the Haas Pavilion campaign showing that the more than 2,000 donors to that campaign subsequently donated more than $23 million to the campus for non-athletics endeavors.

Brostrom and Barbour will outline the current cuts to Athletics and plans to secure a long-term goal for financial self-sufficiency for the program. In fact, Barbour has said, "all options are on the table."

Meanwhile, the document outlines steps already implemented in this area such as voluntary furloughs, pay cuts, staff cuts and layoffs, and reduced spending.

"There are many misconceptions about the funding of athletics at Berkeley, held by both supporters and skeptics of intercollegiate athletics," said Christopher Kutz, chair of the Academic Senate. "There are also very serious questions, especially in these difficult times, about the appropriate level of university support, given our commitments to respecting equity in participation and recognizing diversity in student interests. I am pleased that Intercollegiate Athletics has now come forward with a great deal of information about its programs, and I hope the faculty can proceed to a nuanced and reasoned discussion of these issues at our meeting next week."

In addition to the discussion, some members of the Academic Senate have proposed a resolution (PDF) that recommends steps they believe the chancellor should take to end campus financial support for Intercollegiate Athletics.

To find more information about topics related to this issue and to listen to the audio recording of this meeting later next week, visit the Academic Senate website.