Physical Education Ignored in Favor of Athletics

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On March 30, the SF Chronicle reported that the campus had not succeeded in raising the funds to pay for the $135 million bonds used to fund construction of the "142,000-square-foot, four-story Student Athlete High Performance Center (SAHPC) that will house lockers for the UC football team and meeting rooms adjacent to seismically unstable Memorial Stadium." The article reported that if the funding goals are not met, "UC Berkeley's Department of Intercollegiate Athletics could be responsible for paying off the center's bonds," and those funds might have to come from student fees.

Vice Chancellor Frank Yeary quickly responded that the campus had already raised 52.5 million in donations and 37.5 million in "firm pledges," and that "facility fees attached to Cal football tickets will generate an estimated $54 million" to be used for this debt. That leaves only $9 million to go. The Vice-Chancellor is "completely confident that this relatively small gap can and will be filled over the next 30 years." The SAHPC will be used by about 450 students annually.

On April 1, the SF Chronicle reported that the Chancellor had appointed a panel of Senate faculty and donors to discuss how to continue the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics. With a budget of $65 million annually for 27 teams, Intercollegiate Athletics is supposed to be self-supporting, but every year the campus contributes funds to bridge the gap between income and expenses-$7.7 million last year and $6 million this year-of the 27 teams in the program. That money, according to UCB spokesperson Dan Mogulof, does not come from state funds but from the income from professional degree programs and student fees. The Daily Cal gave a much larger figure for the cost to the campus in its report on an open forum on this subject last Wednesday: $13.7 million last year alone.

Meanwhile, you'll recall that Cal's historic and distinguished Physical Education Program was cut 50% last year, to less than $1 million, reducing the number of classes available to the general student body by about half. This popular program offers a variety of activity and lecture courses for all registered Berkeley students, not just elite athletes, but the 50% cut has severely reduced the number, variety and skill level of classes actually available to students. These cuts are continuing in the 2010-2011 academic year, and no commitment has been made to restore full funding in future years.

Yes, you read those numbers right. The administration is "completely confident" that it can fund a $135 million facility to serve only 450 student athletes yearly. The Chancellor is establishing a panel to ensure that Intercollegiate Athletics can find a way to bridge its $6-13.7 million annual gap. Meanwhile, the Physical Education Program that serves the entire student body, and formerly offered about 200 sections of activity classes annually as well as additional lecture classes, a program that has taught many thousands of Berkeley students how to live a healthy, active life, continues to suffer disproportionate cuts, reducing their budget to less than $1 million and the number of classes available to students by about half.

The Physical Education Program shouldn't be confused with the Department of Recreational Sports, which offers fee-based, non-credit classes. Physical Education is the only program that offers physical activity courses for credit, taught by highly qualified faculty that are an integral component of students' comprehensive education.

Michelle Squitieri is a field representative for UC-AFT Local 1474. Reply to [email protected]

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