Donation should stop athletics from overspending on campus’ dime

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Reading The Daily Californian article “Cal Athletics receives $10 million donation for programs, infrastructure,” it is apparent that Cal is lucky to have such generous benefactors as Lisa and Doug Goldman.  Past donations from the Goldman family supported the Goldman School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley as well as many other centers of environmental and social activism.

It should be noted that the amount of this generous gift equals the amount by which the campus Intercollegiate Athletics, or IA, overspent what it generated last year.  It is important to note that the campus does not clamp down on IA’s overspending, but instead the campus provides IA with subsidies from student fees and from the Chancellor’s Discretionary fund – not just last year, but each and every year.

IA has drained campus coffers of over $88 million from 2003 to 2011, funds that could have been used instead to support the university’s core mission of “undergraduate education, graduate and professional education, research, and other kinds of public service.”

On Nov. 5, 2009, the UC Berkeley faculty passed by an overwhelming majority the “Academics First!” Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate resolution that recommended IA t cease its continual violation of what was the existing UC policy (Chapter A-783-1 of the UC Accounting Manual) that set forth IA should operate as a self-supporting auxiliary.

Yet these last few years have seen the IA continue overspending with impunity, in excess of $10 million annually, while telephones were being yanked out of faculty offices in many departments on campus as a cost-saving measure and while the campus library system was being forced to cut 25 percent of its staff over the last five years, as its national ranking, according to the Association of Research Libraries, tumbled from third down to eighth from the 2002-03 to 2010-11 academic years. Even the Chancellor’s Committee on Intercollegiate Athletics admitted in its July 6, 2010 report that “the rest of campus has suffered physically … in real threats to the ability of the faculty, staff and students to learn and to work, such as 63 chronic roof leaks … and antiquated laboratory facilities.”

To respect what the faculty of UC Berkeley recommended when they passed the Academic Senate’s resolution, as well as what was the established UC Policy, this generous gift to the IA should replace the campus subsidies for 2012-2013 school year.  This donation should liberate the students from the burden of paying fees directly to the IA that enabled it to overspend what it generates and should free up the precious Chancellor’s discretionary funds to support the core academic mission which is under siege financially. Restoring the campus’s library system which has suffered more than $5 million in budget cuts over the past five years according to the university librarian, seems like a good place to start.

Brian Barsky is a UC Berkeley professor of computer science and vision science.

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