According to an outside investigator, UC Davis administrators have been cleared of any wrongdoing in their decision to cut four Intercollegiate Athletics (ICA) teams last April.
The investigation came on the heels of a grievance issued by members of the four cut teams – women’s rowing, men’s wrestling, men’s indoor track and men’s swimming and diving. The grievance alleged that the decision to cut the teams circumvented ICA’s ‘Major Decision Process’ and included a mishandling of funds, largely provided for with student-initiative fees.
In a letter to the students who presented the grievance, Judy Sakaki, UC vice president of student affairs, outlined the results of the investigation and agreed with the final outcome.
“Based on the report, I conclude that the investigation was thorough, objective and professionally conducted,” she wrote. “In my official role in this matter, I concur with the investigator’s finding that University policy was not violated.”
Sakaki pledged to provide the full 52-page report to the public once names and other personal information are removed from it, in accordance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. The report will be available online in three to four weeks.
“I understand the significance of this finding and my decision to accept it,” she wrote. “I want to ensure that everyone has the fullest opportunity to review the investigator’s report and the supporting documents.”
The investigation, although conducted by Sacramento attorney Sue Ann Van Dermyden, was ordered and overseen by the UC Office of the President (UCOP). It was the first of its kind.
According to UCOP spokesperson Steve Montiel, the grievance that prompted the investigation was filed under a campus policy approved on April 20, 2009, with the intent of giving a student a way to file a grievance against a professor.
“Ordinarily, a campus judicial affairs officer would rule on a grievance,” he said in an e-mail interview. “But because this grievance was filed against campus administrators by more than 50 students, the case was referred to UCOP.”
The investigation started last September and ended Feb. 2. Montiel said that its costs are currently unknown.
“The costs won’t be available until the full report is made public and posted on the web,” he said.
Greg Warzecka, UC Davis athletics director, said that the discontinuation of sports programs is a difficult circumstance for an institution to deal with.
“The state economies have forced massive cutbacks in higher education,” he said. “It leaves institutions with no other options but to cut or discontinue some programs, inclusive of sports.”
Warzecka also said that although the cuts are unfortunate, UC Davis administrators did the best they could given the financial situation.
“We all feel for the students, for the coaches,” he said. “[But] we will move on, and we have, with a proud 23-sport program.”
Although university officials consider the conflict to be over, many affected student athletes maintain their stance that the cuts were unjust. Zach Hansen, senior psychology major and former member of the men’s swimming and diving team, even said that the grievance was merely a formality.
“Most internal grievances are not successful, and we weren’t naive to this fact,” he said in an e-mail interview. “Unfortunately, there was no better within-system apparatus for review of the situation.”
Hansen went on to explain that due to a firm belief in the university’s mishandling of the sports cuts, affected student athletes may consider legal action.
“The real issue is about the university keeping the promises it made when it first began collecting those fees,” he said. “We are currently examining our options, and a lawsuit is one of them.”
When asked about the possibility of a lawsuit, Warzecka said he did not think it would be worthwhile to the students.
“That’s their own prerogative, [but] I don’t think there’s anything to be gained there,” he said.
VICTOR BEIGELMAN can be reached at email@example.com.