Open Forum on Campus Funding to Athletics Turns to Heated Debate

Photo: Roberta J. Park, UC Berkeley professor emeritus of integrative biology, spoke against the campus's provision of funding to the athletics department at Tuesday's open forum.
Evan Walbridge/Photo
Roberta J. Park, UC Berkeley professor emeritus of integrative biology, spoke against the campus's provision of funding to the athletics department at Tuesday's open forum.

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Athletic Department's Finances

Academics and administration beat reporter, Emma Anderson, talks about the faculty task force's question and answer session regarding the athletics department finances.

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A heated debate ensued Tuesday as UC Berkeley faculty and Berkeley residents discussed the findings of a faculty task force charged with examining the unsound financial model of Department of Intercollegiate Athletics.

The task force, which was assembled last semester after the campus division of the Academic Senate passed a resolution urging Chancellor Robert Birgeneau to end campus support to the department, presented its interim report in an open forum.

The final report to be considered by Birgeneau is expected to come out during the summer.

Professors and community members debated the role of athletics on campus after Calvin Moore, chair of the task force and professor emeritus of mathematics, presented preliminary suggestions for how the department can remedy its financial instability.

Though department officials said last semester that the cost to campus-which totaled about $13.7 million last year-would be significantly lower this year, Moore said the cost will be the same if not more.

Part of the campus support the department received last fiscal year came in the form of a $5.8 million loan from funds at the discretion of Nathan Brostrom, former vice chancellor of administration.

Though Brostrom and Laura Hazlett, associate director for the athletic department's business office, have said the loan will eventually be paid back, Moore said he doubted any money would ever come back from intercollegiate athletics.

"This is sunken money from the campus, and it's not going to come back in our lifetime," he said.

Moore said department officials did not realize they were heading for a deficit until toward the end of the last fiscal year.

Roberta J. Park, a professor emeritus of integrative biology, said it is unfair that intercollegiate athletics receives funding while other departments suffer.

"How dare we give all this money to intercollegiate athletics and do this to the general student body," she said. "It has got to stop. Berkeley has to take the lead in this."

Many professors challenged the assertion made by some national studies that those who donate to sports are more likely to donate to academics. Campus officials have cited the studies to justify their support for the department.

Alice Agogino, professor of mechanical engineering, read a statement from a campus donor stating the donor would reconsider donating to intercollegiate athletics if funds continue to be diverted from other academic programs.

After Moore's presentation, the discussion digressed into a debate about the seismic retrofitting of Memorial Stadium and the construction of the Student Athlete High Performance Center.

Professors and Berkeley residents voiced skepticism about whether the construction plans will be fully funded, in part by the Endowment Seating Program, which provides long-term rights to approximately 3,000 seats. Buyers are allowed a varying amount of time to pay off their seats, which some at the meeting said does not guarantee the funds will come in.

However, Moore said there is no reason to believe funds for the construction will not come through.

"Our calculations tell us that with a probability of 90 percent, we're going to come out in the end," he said.

Moore ended the discussion after two hours, though many present still had questions.

"This is an interim report," he said. "We're still working on it."


Emma Anderson covers academics and administration. Contact her at [email protected]

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