Orin Starn, a professor of cultural anthropology, questions whether his institution, Duke University, should continue to subsidize its athletics program. In an opinion published in the Durham Herald-Sun, Starn points to Duke’s $10 million subsidy to its athletics program last year and questions the expense when liberal arts programs are in the midst of having their budgets cut.
“Myth has it that high-powered sports teams earn money for universities, but the reality at Duke and most schools is that they drain cash. Last year, the university apparently transferred over $10 million from its general fund to make up for the sports team shortfall; the figure will very likely be far higher this time around. That athletics sucks up so much cash at a moment when the administration has been forced to slash the budgets of its core liberal arts departments raises questions about Duke’s priorities and the very character of the university itself.
Consider the figures: The athletics budget for 2008-9 was a whopping $71 million and has increased by over 40 percent over the last three years. Fielding competitive big-time college sports teams is a pricey proposition and even the hallowed men’s basketball program lost over $2 million last year. By contrast, every Duke liberal arts department — history, physics, political science, cultural anthropology, and down the line — has had to cut its budget by 15 percent this year due to recessionary university shortfalls. There are almost no searches this year to hire new faculty. You could build new labs to search for cures to deadly diseases, expand the performing arts, and add dozens of top young minds to the faculty for the money that’s going into Duke sports teams.”
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