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BFA Concerns about Intercollegiate Athletics


Professor Christina Maslach, Chair, UC Berkeley Academic Senate                        
Professor Elizabeth Deakin, Vice-Chair, UC Berkeley Academic Senate

Dear Christina, Betty:

As grateful as we should be for the work of the CAPRA Subcommittee on IA Report, “IA Finances and Academic Performance of Student Athletes,” the Berkeley Faculty Association would like to call the attention of the leadership of the Academic Senate to the following concerns.

1.  The “Academics First” resolution passed overwhelmingly in 2009 made several recommendations to the Chancellor concerning Intercollegiate Athletics, but also decided one thing on its own:  that the Senate should constitute a senate committee responsible for reviewing Intercollegiate Athletics.  Somehow this resolution was transmogrified into a recommendation by a task force (appointed by then-Chair Kutz) that the proposed committee be instead a “subcommittee” of CAPRA made up of “3 or 4 faculty members appointed by the Committee on Committees.”

2.  It’s such a “subcommittee” that has recently posted a report on IA, specifically on stadium financing, although it (all too) briefly addresses the problem of student-athlete academic performance.  It appears that this subcommittee consists of only two faculty:  Alexis Bell, who, as co-Chair of CAPRA, has many other responsibilities, and Evan Williams, who, as co-Chair of the Chancellor’s Joint Committee on Parking, is similarly overtasked.  It is true that their report also draws—indeed, relies–upon the review of the IA budget by Haas faculty members Vice-Chancellor Wilton invited to assess the feasibility of the revised plan for financing.  Both the report and the review (not yet publicly available) express continuing concerns about overly optimistic projections about seat sales and other revenue streams (media, rental revenue, etc.).  Moreover, the report provides no assurances that the estimates now offered by IA are trustworthy, beyond informing us that the Director of Development for IA who provided entirely false information to the Senate, the Regents, and the news media has since departed.  Although the report briefly addresses the issue of student-athlete academic performance, it seems merely to commend IA for having agreed that the football program should adopt an “academic improvement plan” like the one Men’s basketball undertook in 2004-5. The appendix mentioned in the report is not posted, but public records indicate that the Academic Progress and Graduation Success rates of Men’s Basketball have also declined in recent years.

3.  There is no indication in the report that this subcommittee has received any information on the new IA proposal for an “Aquatics Center,” reported in the Daily Cal on 4/8/2013. Given the financial history of the Student Athlete High Performance Center (SAHPC), we certainly have reason to worry that the claim that the center will be financed entirely by philanthropy might be specious. Despite press releases and reports citing IA sources that the SAHPC would be “entirely” financed by private donations and that $90 million was “in the bank” as of 8/16/2006, in the end only $29 million of total costs of $153 million for the SAHPC was funded through donations.[1]  The University is now in debt for that project to the tune of $124 million dollars.  Now the Daily Cal reports (no doubt drawing on the material provided by IA) that “the aquatics facility project is entirely funded by Cal Aquatic Legends, an independent nonprofit donor group founded to raise money for the project.”  And that’s all we know about where the $15 million currently estimated costs are to be found.  There’s no mention at all of how Parking & Transportation is to make up for lost revenue, nor a plan put forward if the private fund-raising efforts prove insufficient.

But this is only the latest in a series of worrying issues related to Intercollegiate Athletics.  For the reasons enumerated here—the fact that the Academic Senate overwhelmingly endorsed the call for a Senate committee on IA; the fact that the current subcommittee does not have the status of a Senate Committee, nor sufficient membership to do an adequate job of reporting on the complex financial history and future projects of Intercollegiate Athletics; and the fact that new projects are being proposed without relevant information being made publicly available in a timely manner–we ask the present Senate leadership to do what we resolved in 2009:  establish a Senate Committee on Intercollegiate Athletics.[2]

Moreover, the matter of the proposed Aquatics Center demands the faculty’s immediate attention.  The IA has imposed an April 24 deadline for public comment on the Environmental Impact Report and plans to seek approval at the May meeting of the UC Regents.  We urge you to take immediate action to slow this juggernaut and encourage responsible discussion. Toward this end, starting April 18 the BFA plans to make public in the media the questions and objections raised above.  We do not wish to blind-side the Senate in this regard, and indeed hope to be able to work with you on this issue. Please feel free to use any of the points above in your own response and let us know if you see any opportunities to cooperate.

Celeste Langan and Kevin Padian, for the Berkeley Faculty Association 

[1] Jay Heater, “Memorial Stadium has friend: Bartko’s track record suggests Cal should find money for renovation,” San Jose Mercury News, August 13, 2006; see also Brian Barsky, “Cal’s Student Athlete High Performance Center Should Show Us the Money,” which cites a Daily Cal report of November 29, 2008: 

[2] It has been alleged that the Senate is not vested with the authority to review Intercollegiate Athletics, but we find such a standing committee at UCLA: 

“A major responsibility of The Committee on Intercollegiate Athletics involves reviewing policies and practices of the UCLA Athletics Department as they affect the academic progress and performance of student-athletes. The Committee also engages broader issues regarding the relation of the athletics program to the overall academic mission of the university.

Intercollegiate Athletics advises the Administration and Athletics Department and maintains liaison with equivalent committees at other universities on matters of policy.

Membership The committee consists of five faculty members.  The UCLA Faculty Athletic Representative serves as a non-voting ex officio member.  In accordance with Bylaw 45, the committee also includes an Undergraduate and a Graduate Student Representative.  The Associate Athletic Director is a non-voting standing guest.


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