The UC system recently released its 2019 payroll report, displaying the earnings of its employees, including the top earners at UC Berkeley. Notably, most of these breadwinners do not work in academics or administration, but in athletics. The six highest-compensated employees work within football or basketball, with football head coach, Justin Wilcox, raking in almost $2.5 million — nearly 4.5 times what Chancellor Carol Christ made that year.
Funding in 2020 is especially hard to come by: COVID-19 may cost the university up to $340 million. And while some of the UC system’s highest salaried individuals have taken voluntary pay cuts — Christ took a 10% cut — athletics’ highest earners have largely remained silent. While Wilcox and other football coaches took temporary salary cuts (of unspecified amounts), their incomes are representative of a larger issue surrounding the university’s priorities — these coaches shouldn’t have pocketed that much in the first place.
The allocation of resources is a perpetually hot-button issue — graduate student instructors protesting across the UC system for a cost-of-living adjustment is just one example. COVID-19 has exacerbated this drought of funding. Yet through this pandemic, money has been secured for football and basketball, despite UC Berkeley’s long-standing inability to assign adequate funding for basic needs programs. The school should not rely on students to raise resources for these services through student fees, campus fees and student-run mutual aid funds. Morally, it must prioritize the well-being of students over securing the future of athletic programs.
Within UC Berkeley’s $3 billion budget, 34% comes from tuition, 19% from the state and the rest mostly from grants and contracts. Sports, primarily football, are viewed as pivotal revenue generators, but Pac-12 schools earn only $32 million to $33 million annually. Recently, Cal Athletics has even reaped a net loss of $9 million annually, as a result of construction on Memorial Stadium and a training center.
None of this is to say that athletics are unimportant to campus culture or should be abolished; these programs represent an invaluable path to higher education and opportunity for their students. However, the strains of the pandemic further complicate funding, especially during a season when teams will not even take the field. Athletics should not beat out essential programs — such as the PATH to Care Center, mental health resources or financial aid — that support the general student population.
This payroll report reveals UC Berkeley’s irresponsible priorities — athletics over fair pay, athletics over basic needs, athletics over all other programs. It is time for campus administrators to put their money where their mouth is. If our campus truly cares for its students, a reevaluation of monetary priorities is crucial, not only during this pandemic, but for the campus’s future.
Editorials represent the majority opinion of the editorial board as written by the fall 2020 opinion editor, Katherine Shok.