Faculty Senate continues athletics budget conversation

Senate members discuss the request for more funding, question whether the request would benefit students

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SCREENSHOT FROM MEETING

The proposal would subsidize $2-3 million of Athletics’ costs for the fiscal year 2022 and beyond.

MADYSEN MCLAIN, Evergreen reporter

Faculty Senate members called for feedback on their recommendation to reject WSU Athletics’ request for more funding from the university at the first senate meeting of the semester on Thursday.

The Senate established an ad hoc committee on Dec. 15 to discuss the athletics proposal to the Board of Regents for fiscal recovery.

“I want to say that we’re not against the athletics department,” committee chair Von Walden said. “We want to make it clear that we see the value of athletics at WSU, but they do have some budget issues, and they’re actually not part of the core mission of teaching, research and outreach.”

The committee composed a one-page document describing their position to reject the proposal, which would subsidize $2-3 million of athletics’ costs for the fiscal year 2022 and beyond. It states the department would pay Pac-12 Conference fees with the funding.

The document calls out ‘inequality in budget cuts,’ writing that the WSU system already decreased 10 percent or more of its budget while athletics continued to accrue about $10 million of debt each year prior to the pandemic. The total athletic debt is about $120 million.

“The effects of these budget cuts to academic departments across WSU are large and painful,” the committee wrote. “For example, critical staff have been cut, such as lab managers, postdoctoral fellows, office assistants and graduate research/teaching assistants.”

Senators are being asked to collect signatures in favor of the recommendation, as well as feedback on the proposal. Faculty members can make comments on the Senate website.

After two days of the website being up, about 53 people have signed the recommendation, Walden said.

No action was taken during the meeting. However, in two weeks the Senate will vote whether to send the recommendation forward to the Board of Regents. 

Senator Matthew Carroll commented saying university administration is discussing the athletics budget while potentially having to face more furloughs due to COVID-19, which puts the university in a tough spot.

Other senator deliberations included concerns over the lack of data that shows putting more money into an athletics program would increase revenue.

“The piece that’s really powerful is there’s no data that supports how we would profit from an expensive athletics department,” Senator Pamela Thoma said.

One senator from Vancouver questioned whether the proposal would benefit the majority of students, especially if they will never visit the Pullman campus where athletics are played at.

“How many students specifically will benefit from this? Will it go to the students or will it offset coaching and director salaries?” Vancouver Senator John Barber said.