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Davis, California

Wednesday, July 17, 2024

University must maintain its financial support of the PE program and the teacher-coach model

While you still pay full fare, the University has been doing less and less of what it is supposed to do

On Sept. 25, campus administration quietly and unilaterally decided to eliminate physical education (PE) instruction starting Winter Quarter 2021. While the elimination of PE classes that can help to improve and de-stress the pressurized lives of students would be a highly questionable move in normal times, it is a truly terrible decision right now. But that’s only part of it. Did you know that PE instruction also serves as the critical link between UC Davis Intercollegiate Athletics (ICA) and the University’s academic mission? It’s true. Everyone knows NCAA Division I sports is a big business. With media rights and NCAA and conference distributions on the line, not to mention egos and name recognition, for universities across the D1 landscape, it’s all about winning. And when winning is everything, rules become optional, ethics become artifacts and the perceived worth of sports not named football and basketball goes to zero. It is also true that only a handful of Division I programs operate in the black. The vast majority lose money.

Avoiding the “business model” of intercollegiate sports is precisely why far-sighted UC Davis students have voted on multiple occasions over the past 30 years to approve, subject to certain assumptions and conditions, the collection of fees associated with the Student Activities and Services Initiative (SASI), the Facilities And Campus Enhancement Initiative (FACE) and the Campus Expansion Initiative (CEI). They, and previous campus administrations too, recognized that UC Davis needed to follow a different path. These days, students contribute over $23.5 million every year to support UC Davis’ uniquely chartered and supposedly protected ICA program. Yes, that’s a lot of money, but you get what you pay for––or at least you should. Because in exchange for your fees, the university was not going to let bad things happen to your, yes, your, ICA program. 

But starting during the days of the Katehi era, and apparently even today, while you still pay full fare the university has been doing less and less of what it is supposed to do. In this case, that means maintaining the PE program. Because just as there are student-athletes, at UC Davis there are also teacher-coaches who are qualified as instructors and who must adhere to the faculty code of conduct. All of this is what separates UC Davis from the rest. Students pay to secure the coaching portion of teacher-coach salaries and the university, through the PE program, pays for the teaching portion to secure the program’s instructional foundation. This is the implicit partnership that was established beginning with SASI in 1994 and which underpins the FACE and the CEI as well which were passed by UC Davis students later on. But soon that will no longer be the case. 

By removing it from its foundational teacher-coach model, the administration is not only casting the Aggie ICA program adrift, it is arguably putting itself in breach of its longstanding partnership with students. Don’t let anyone take you for “suckers and losers.”  Don’t let your Aggie forebears down. Don’t let your successor students down. And don’t buy the false choice that it’s either drop PE or cut sports––as that, too, would constitute a breach of at least the CEI. Instead, insist both directly and through your elected ASUCD representatives, that the University must hold up its end of the partnership upon which the SASI, FACE and CEI are all based and maintain its financial support of the PE program and the teacher-coach model. And if the administration refuses, then demand that each of these initiatives be re-voted upon by the entire student body with that in mind.

Written by: Paul Medved

Paul Medved is a UC Davis alumnus and parent of a former Aggie student-athlete.


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