UC Berkeley Budget Crisis Pits Athletics vs Academics

As reported in Politics Daily, on November 5 at the University of California Berkeley (UC), the Academic Senate voted to recommend to UC Chancellor Robert Birgeneau to not continue subsidizing the athletics program, to end the athletic department’s deficit spending, and to include coaches in the full furlough program facing UC Berkeley professors and staff. The Senate took action after questioning whether athletics funding was given preference over academic funding in lieu of student protests over a projected 30 percent increase in tuition across the University of California system.

Prior to the vote, UC athletic director Sandy Barbour released information stating that projected for this year and next, an athletics deficit of $12.2 million, “will be repaid in the future from external sources of revenue.” According to Politics Daily, the information from Barbour also stated the athletic department “has run annual deficits, backed by university loans and repaid through fiscal year 2007, when Chancellor Birgeneau forgave [the athletic department] its $31.4 million debt to the university.”

However, Barbour stated that institutional support for athletics has been cut by 20 percent, and that the department is “sharing the pain” with the rest of campus in the face of state budget cuts to higher education. In addition, she stated that if the athletic department did not receive institutional subsidies, it would “no longer be competitive.” She stated much of the institutional support is to pay for women’s athletic teams in its commitment to gender equity.

On November 6, KQED’s radio show, “Forum,” focused on the issue of funding athletics within the mission of higher education. Featured in the show were Barbour; Dan Mogulof, executive director of public affairs for UC Berkeley; Amy Perko, executive director of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics; Brian Barsky, a professor of computer science at UC Berkeley; Alice Agogino, professor of mechanical engineering at UC Berkeley.

Click here to listen to the audio of the Nov. 6 Forum on KQED.