New class focuses on funding for athletics

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article was an incomplete draft posted due to a technical error. The version you see below is the final version, as published in print on Thursday, August 25, 2011.

This fall, a few faculty members will teach a freshman seminar that focuses on the priorities of UC Berkeley, specifically with regard to how much the campus should emphasize subsidizing its  Department of Intercollegiate Athletics.

These three faculty members created this seminar,”Priorities Under Pressure: Critical Assessment of How the University’s Core Mission is Affected by Intercollegiate Athletics“, from their concern that the Intercollegiate Athletics program continues to cost the university millions of dollars annually, said Brian Barsky, a creator of the seminar.

According to Barsky, the intercollegiate athletics program at UC Berkeley was originally set up to be self-supporting, just like student housing, meaning that it must generate whatever money it spends and that the campus should not provide funds to enable the program to spend beyond the amount that it generates.

“However, the program continues to use campus funds, having cost the campus $78 million from 2003-2010 … while at the same time paying multi-million dollar coaching compensation,” Barsky said.

The course is listed in the computer science division of the electrical engineering and computer sciences department. Barsky will teach the seminar with two other campus professors — Margaretta Lovell, a history of art professor, and Laura Nader, an anthropology professor — but will also invite many guest speakers.

While the course will examine the use of university funds in the Intercollegiate Athletics program, it will also use the program as a more general platform to determine thepriorities of the university as a whole, according to Barsky.

“This transcends the issue of examining how intercollegiate athletics affects the university’s core mission,” Barsky said. “ We will examine the broader question of what is the purpose of the university, especially what is the role of a public university that functions at an elite academic level.”

Barsky said the course will include prominent guest speakers, both local and from across the country, including a former NFL player, a former former sports marketing executive, book authors,  former university administrators, and a professor of sports management.

Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Sandy Barbour said she received an invitation from Barsky to be a guest speaker for the seminar and said she hopes to speak in the seminar.

“I welcome this examination, and it is a fascinating topic that is worth discussion,” Barbour said.

Barbour said that she just hopes that all perspectives on this issue will be taken in account.

“I hope that they will explore a broad array of stakeholders from different perspectives,” Barbour said. “My hope is that the class will explore a pretty broad meaning of what contribution to the university’s core mission can mean.”

Barsky said students will be taught to include varying perspectives and he hopes that they will apply this investigative method to other issues in the world.

“I am hoping that the class will inspire the students to not merely accept the status quo but rather to think from first principles about how something should be rather than just learn about how it actually is,” Barsky said. “That is the kind of education we wish to impart to the students at Berkeley.”

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  • guest

    Oops, that didn’t come out right.

    I can’t believe the Daily Cal could print a whole article about a course without giving the name of the course.  Also I can’t find it in the General Catalog.

    It sounds like a great course, one that might actually lead some student to think!  It seems like these days, students are expected to just shut up and pay their tuition so that UC can continue to build its way into oblivion.

  • guest

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    about a course without giving the name of the course.  Also I can’t find it in the General Catalog. 


    It sounds like a great course, one that might actually lead
    some students to think!  It seems
    like these days, students are expected to just shut up and pay their tuition so
    that UC can continue to build its way into oblivion.


  • StressedSophWhoNeedsCSClass

    How come these three never have to teach regular undergrad classes? Staff keep getting laid off, students can’t get classes they need to graduate, and these three are paid 100’s of thousands of dollars to give a seminar or two on whatever they feel like? Where’s the jutice in that?

    • JustAnotherConcernedCitizen

      I wish top-notch professors at a public University got paid 100’s of thousands… for a seminar that wishes to teach students to be critical of not only an elite academic university’s mission, which happens to be a public school; but also to be critical of what priority administrators place on intercollegiate sports – at a Public  Academic institution, where academics are thought to be the main objective. They hopefully get at least a hundred grand (which i doubt since they’re Teachers)  opposed to the $ 2 Million+ that the UCB Football coach gets paid Excluding perks and no-interest loans on constructing million dollar mansions….. for coaching a College sports team.

      • TruthSeeker

        When staff were laid off and all professors were given a salary cut with a furlough, the coaches did not have their wages reduced.

    • Sm113

      I understand the stress of not getting classes we need, tuition rising, etc.  But classes like these are not the enemy — they are a positive step toward discussion of University priorities.  And teaching critical thinking skills is central to what a university education is about.  It’s going to help students a lot more than being a spectator at a football game, but we waste multi-millions every year on those games.

    • Fin91

      The Athletics Director quoted gets paid more than those three put together!

    • AnotherSophomore

      The Freshman Seminar was the best thing about Cal for me last  year and the university budget should go there and not to the athletics program with its million dollar coaches.

    • Alix Schwartz

      Dear Sophomore,
      I am so sorry to hear you are having troubles getting into classes. However, in point of fact these professors do teach regular courses. The Freshman Seminar is a voluntary overload, which means they are teaching it in addition to their regular courses, so that students can have a small class with a professor in their first year. Their salary is not augmented by one penny for teaching the seminar. I should know: I run the Freshman Seminar Program.
      Be persistent, put  your name on waitlists, attend classes you are waitlisted for, and you will get in.

    • Student

      While students can’t get into classes, the athletes don’t have this problem because they get to enroll in their classes before the other students!