I am writing in response to the two recent articles regarding the call by the University’s main faculty governing body for academic reforms for athletes (Assembly calls for athletic reforms, 10/23/2007, Profs want change in University athletics, 10/02/2007). As a student-athlete, I intend to prove that these reforms are unnecessary and unjust.
As one article reported, “The Athletic Department is one of the few self-supporting departments in the nation, meaning it funds its operating budget entirely from its own revenues.” Under the superior direction of Athletic Director Bill Martin, this department went from being in debt to being fully self-funded. He is a remarkable businessman and a well-respected leader on campus. The suggestion that a tenured faculty member should hold his position as chairman of the University’s Advisory Board for Intercollegiate Athletics is illogical. How could a faculty member who has no involvement with the inner workings of the Athletic Department be more qualified than Martin?
Perhaps the most disturbing reform proposed is the integration of the Athletic Department budget with the University’s general fund. As reported, “The University’s general budget grew 1.9 percent between the 2006-2007 fiscal year and the 2007-2008 fiscal year. The Athletic Department’s budget, meanwhile, increased 17.6 percent during that same period.” Given the discrepancy in growth between the two budgets, I see no logical way to integrate them.
Faculty members are outraged over the type of spending the Athletic Department is doing. But the University’s teams have a strong tradition of winning, perhaps the strongest in the country: To whom much is given, much is expected. We as student-athletes have been given every opportunity to succeed, and so far I see positive results across the board.
The beautiful Ross Academic Center and renovations to the Big House, baseball stadium and softball facilities, as well as plans to expand other facilities wouldn’t be possible had the Athletic Department’s current budget not been in place. If we are fully self-funded, then why is the University up in arms about spending? The Athletic Department’s spending is not harming the University in any way.
My final issue is that of academics. Student-athletes are just that: Students, then athletes. Most of us embrace this fact and take it very seriously. We know that we are lucky to be here and take full advantage of the opportunities that we have been given to attend a top university while playing the sports we love. The call for higher admissions standards for athletes and greater scrutiny of our majors is unfounded.
On my team alone, we have three Business School students, three pre-med students and a flock of other strong majors, like graphic design and psychology. I can assure you that there is a strong emphasis on grades, academic achievement and community involvement. Yet both of the articles quote people calling for greater campus involvement by athletes. Here are some facts for you: Every Thursday evening, student-athletes visit C.S. Motts Children’s Hospital. Every Friday, we send student-athletes to local elementary schools to read to and tutor struggling students. In our countless volunteer activities, student-athletes have given so much back to the Ann Arbor community that so passionately supports us. How can the University hold us in contempt? I would like to see some of the other students at this University handle the schedules that we as student-athletes have and perform as well as we do.
I came to Michigan for the chance to have it all – strong academic programs and unparalleled athletics. I will graduate in the spring with a BBA from the Ross School of Business and a BA in English from LSA. I have been a Big Ten Regular Season Champion or Big Ten Tournament Champion six times and will perhaps even be a National Champion by the time our season ends this year. I hope that the University will take a closer look at the Athletic Department and what it produces: Strong, talented and capable men and women, almost all of whom, as the NCAA commercials remind us, will be going pro in something other than our sport. We are successful doing what we have been doing and growing the way we have been growing. Don’t stop us now.
Kirsten Tiner is a Business School and LSA senior and co-captain of the Michigan field hockey team.