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Open Letter from BFA to Senate Chair Betty Deakin – “School first, sports second”

The Berkeley Faculty Association deplores the disruption of the University’s
academic mission by the occupation of Kroeber Plaza by Fox Sports TV on
September 13-14, 2013. The Fox Sports booths, television screens, and other
advertising paraphernalia were set up on a Friday, even as students and faculty
were trying to attend classes and access the library and art studios. Faculty were
not consulted about the event beforehand, and because the Events Office staff
in charge of the event did not arrange adequate security for the increased
traffic, departments in Kroeber Hall were forced to close the facility (which
houses the Anthropology Library and Art Practice workshops) on Saturday.
Academics were not merely interrupted but trumped by Cal Athletics and its
corporate partners.

This past weekend’s event comes in the wake of several years of
deepening faculty concern about the place of athletics at UC Berkeley. First, the
construction of a prohibitively expensive ($321 million), debt-financed stadium,
and a pattern of misinformation from Intercollegiate Athletics (IA) about
revenues from (tax-deductible) seat sales. Then news of the additional $124
million debt incurred to build the Simpson Student-Athlete High Performance
Center, a facility available to less than 1% of the student body. Now the plan to
construct a new Aquatics Center, again not for the general use of the campus
community, but for the exclusive use of Intercollegiate Athletics. These issues
merely add to ongoing concern about the huge sums from the Chancellor’s
Discretionary Fund that have been used to cover yearly operating deficits of
Intercollegiate Athletics (nearly $100 million in the past decade) and recent
news (2012) that UC Berkeley still ranks last in the Pac-12 Conference in
graduation success rates of students playing men’s basketball (“up” from 20%
in 2009 to the current 33%), and next-to-last in football.

We are not anti-athletics. We understand that intercollegiate competition
contributes to institutional pride and plays an important role in maintaining the
loyalty of students and alumni. We believe in the educational place of an
athletics program that fosters student fitness, physical well-being, and
camaraderie. But despite scandal after scandal under different chancellors, the
proper management of Intercollegiate Athletics has eluded the best efforts of
campus administration. The continuing conflicts between Intercollegiate
Athletics and the primary mission of the University—excellence in education,
research, and public service—makes us wonder whether the time has come to
separate Cal Athletics—financially, administratively and geographically—from
UC Berkeley’s academic endeavors and locales.

UC Berkeley Faculty Association
UC Berkeley chapter of the Council of UC Faculty Associations
(888) 826-3623 www.ucbfa.org


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