Friday, June 2, 2017
To the WSU Board of Trustees, Interim President Curtis McCray, and incoming President Cheryl Schrader:
We, the undersigned faculty, are writing to express our objection to the proposed FY18 budget announced on May 19. It calls for a $1.6 million increase in budgeted spending for intercollegiate athletics but cuts to every other major spending unit, including $9.5 million in cuts to the seven core colleges and $1 million in cuts to the library (not to mention $3.9 million additional cuts to BSoM and SoPP).
Indeed, when the Board of Trustees hired Dr. McCray as interim President, “maintaining [WSU’s] core athletics programs at a NCAA Division I level” appeared in the first sentence of the first item in the list of his duties specified in his contract.
Putting athletics on a par with academics and thus before the needs of our students is disgraceful and a gross strategic blunder! It continues the misplaced priorities that have characterized WSU spending in recent years and, along with gross mismanagement, led to the present fiscal crisis.
Under normal circumstances, it would be rational to give intercollegiate athletics a realistic budget, in line with the overspending that annually has occurred. But, in this fiscal crisis, it is inexplicable—even absurd. Spending on intercollegiate athletics has typically totaled about $10 million per year; in contrast, ticket sales have generated about $300 thousand per year. Even if one includes donations and other sources, the revenue generated by athletics has been about $2 million per year—most of which is offset by the subsidies that the university must provide to the Nutter Center because athletic events generate such little revenue.
There is no evidence that intercollegiate athletics is of much interest to most of our students. After all, through their fees, they pay for two “free” tickets to each basketball game, but student attendance is chronically and woefully low. Likewise, all the empty seats at athletic events and the minuscule revenue generated by athletics demonstrate that there is little community support for our teams either.
Students come to Wright State looking for a quality education at an affordable price so that they can have rewarding careers rather than McJobs. Taxpayers expect and need the research of our faculty and students to benefit our communities and foster economic development. None of these objectives are advanced by increasing spending on intercollegiate athletics.
In closing, then, we call upon you to totally eliminate the increase budgeted for intercollegiate athletics. Instead, we propose that this $1.6 million be devoted to scholarships. That change in the proposed budget would help to stabilize enrollments and to restore our badly tarnished reputation in the community.