Resolution Urges End to Campus Athletic Funding

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The UC Berkeley division of the Academic Senate approved a resolution Thursday urging Chancellor Robert Birgeneau to act immediately to end central campus financial support for the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics.

By a 91 to 68 vote, the senate recommended the department immediately be put on a path to financial self-reliance and pay back an outstanding loan from last year of $5.8 million to the campus. The resolution also urges Birgeneau to encourage donors to prioritize academics over athletics.

A senate committee overseeing department operations was also established to promote transparency and ensure compliance with the senate's recommendations.

"It's terribly unfortunate," said Athletic Director Sandy Barbour. "We are working on a sustainable model to close that (budget) gap and I will follow the Chancellor's lead."

At the meeting, many professors said the resolution aims to ensure that academics remainthe prime focus of campus officials' efforts to offset record budget shortfalls.

"This resolution is not about athletes or athletics," said Laura Nader, a professor of Anthropology who was one of eight faculty signatories to the resolution, at the meeting. "The resolution is about priorities ... Will our world-class public university put entertainment ahead of education?"

The resolution came in response to recent revelations that the department had received millions of dollars-including a record high $13.4 million in fiscal year 2008-09 alone-in recent years from student fees and a discretionary fund controlled by Birgeneau.

Birgeneau said at the meeting that funding from the campus is necessary in order to comply with Title IX and that athletic revenues are expected to benefit from renegotiated media contracts and a general economic recovery.

Athletics have also led to increased donations to campus academics because many UC Berkeley graduates choose to live within close proximity to campus after graduation and remain engaged with the campus community, said campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof.

"A robust intercollegiate athletics program does not stand in the way of private philanthropy," he said. "Of the 137 donors who pledged at least $10,000 to the new student athlete high performance center, 123 combined to donate more than $108 million to the academic side of campus."

Many faculty said at the meeting that constructing a proper response to the controversial issue of campus funding was hindered by the limited time available for discussion and the inability of most faculty to attend the meeting.

"It was extremely unfortunate (but) you can't run (the meeting) indefinitely," said Christopher Kutz, senate division chair and a professor at Boalt Hall School of Law.

Others said the meeting was disorganized and needed to include more concrete data on the degree to which athletics benefit the general campus community.

"A study specific to Berkeley on funding needs to be done," said Stanley Klein, a professor of optometry.


Zach E.J. Williams is the assistant university news editor. Contact him at [email protected]

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