For a number of years, I have pondered the dominance of athletics here at Franklin Pierce University. Sure, if we look at the official athletic budget totals as a percentage of the entire University budget, we appear to be in line with peer institutions. But if one instead considers athletics only in the context of the budget for the College at Rindge and if one works to identify and include all the hidden costs of athletics (maintenance of facilities, for example) buried elsewhere in our budget, the costs rapidly rise. Therefore, in recognition of this reality, I propose we rename our institution FPUAC: Franklin Pierce University and Athletic Camp.
I teach here at Franklin Pierce, and for years I have listened to numerous faculty and students complain about the apparent overemphasis of this institution upon athletics, especially in comparison with academics. I came here twenty years ago and the number of full-time faculty at Rindge is virtually unchanged. The number of varsity sports and coaches, however, has mushroomed. Of course, we hear in response that athletes retain at a higher rate, and I’m sure that is true. Give academic programs a budget for recruitment and scholarships and perhaps their recruitment and retention would improve as well. We don’t get to self-select our students as do athletic teams, and I don’t know of any academic major possessing budgets to travel and recruit in Brazil, the United Kingdom, Serbia, or Finland, to name a few. Therefore, since the inputs are slanted in favor of athletics and retention, it is no surprise the results also favor athletics. Moreover, what of the students who leave in part because of this overemphasis on athletics? Some departing students have told me that was one reason for leaving, while others remain but quietly resent what they perceive as favoritism towards athletics and athletes.
Is there an institutional favoritism towards athletics, more so than should be the case at a small, liberal arts university (college if considering Rindge alone)? Consider the following.
a. The “Bubble” was built on the promise of then-President Hagerty that it was solely for intramurals and the community. Varsity athletics would be strictly excluded. Now, go in there any evening. How many “captain’s practices” are being held? What percentage of the usage of training and fitness equipment is related to varsity athletics?
b. Is it normal and fair that athletes register for classes prior to other students? Students who attain Dean’s Honors now register before all others due to their scholastic achievements, but that was a concession grudgingly accepted by University administrators only after strong faculty pressure. Faculty are responsible for academics, and none of them requested special treatment for athletes. What about students with jobs or families? They have special needs as well, but receive no preferential treatment. Only athletes and athletics are privileged.
c. Why are coaches now granted access to athletes’ academic files and listed as co-advisors on Campus Web? Are faculty listed as assistant coaches for each and every athlete, given access to all team records, and put in position to make recommendations? No, and they shouldn’t be. The same goes for athletic coaches with regards to academic affairs. You coach, I teach, let’s leave it there.
My final point is a broader one, which I hope to comment upon further in future entries. Franklin Pierce is a rarity in higher education, for according to the Pierce Arrow, the entering class of 2014 is 56% male and 44% female. This is nearly the opposite of national trends and data, which show a skewed ratio in favor of females, whether as entering students or as degree recipients. Why is this? Is it in any way related to the predominance of athletics in the public profile of Franklin Pierce University? Are we developing into a school noted for its “jock culture?” Or is it more accurately a “lad culture?” If this is the perception of FPU by outsiders such as guidance counselors, is it affecting and shaping the sex ratio of those who apply and those who attend? I don’t know, but it is a long-overdue discussion for Franklin Pierce University and Athletic Camp.
Professor Douglas Ley
Pierce Arrow Blogger