Bad News Golden Bears

The Associated Press reports that the faculty of UC-Berkeley is up in arms over the university’s continued subsidizing of college sports. Yesterday, the campus Academic Senate voted 91-68 to approve a nonbinding resolution calling for an end to campus support of the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics (DIA).

According to the resolution (click here for a PDF), the DIA outspends its revenues every year; during the most recent five-year period for which data is available (2003-2008), the DIA cost the campus more than $10 million every year but one. The 2008-2009 cost is projected to be a record high of $13.5 million, and the expense is likely to rise even further during the current year. The total deficit since 1991 is estimated at $160 million.

In light of the recession’s impact on the UC system, these costs have become intolerable to many professors, who have witnessed class cutbacks, furloughs, and rapidly rising student fees. The Associated Press provides further detail on the situation:

“Action is imperative given the current budget crisis,” said Alice Agogino, a mechanical engineering professor who supported the resolution.

Some spoke in favor of the athletics department, including recent graduate and former swim team member Natalie LaRochelle, who grew tearful as she talked about the difficulty deciding which programs to cut.

“Cutting athletic funding right now is not the answer, because intercollegiate athletics enriches the entire university by giving back in both cultural and material ways,” she said.

Athletics Director Sandy Barbour acknowledged the deficits are a problem and said the money will be repaid.

This resolution represents one of the most dramatic incidents of backlash against athletics inspired by the recession thus far. It is unclear what else we can expect, but it is not especially surprising that the floundering UC system has been one of the first to act.

Daniel Fromson

Daniel Fromson is an editorial intern at the Washington Monthly. He previously interned at Harper's Magazine, and he has written for Dow Jones Newswires and the Wall Street Journal.