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Despite paying for the majority of the athletics budget, students have lost access to benefits of physical education
In late September, the UC Davis administration decided to terminate the physical education (PE) courses starting in Winter Quarter 2021. The move came to the surprise of many and the university should not have abruptly ended these classes without the consultation of the student body or the Academic Senate.
The Student Activities and Services Initiative (SASI) was passed in 1994 and it stated that in exchange for a student fee increase, the university would promise to keep for-credit PE courses among other things. The termination of these classes violates that promise, and the contradictory statements among the administration begs more questions about the university’s lack of transparency and the true reasons behind the decision at this particular time. Moves like these are exactly why many strongly opposed the move to Division 1 (D-1) athletics.
When the opportunity to move the university to D-1 athletics came to light in 2002, many believed that this would encourage them to focus on sports over academic values. The Academic Senate required the university to include eight principles in their filing to the NCAA, one of which highlighted the importance of preserving the teacher-coach role at the university, a faculty position that very few universities have.
Opting to terminate PE classes erases that teacher-coach model and means that coaches will no longer be considered faculty and are hired to prioritize winning over providing educational opportunities to all students. This moves the university further away from its academic values. Claiming the decision to get rid of PE was due to budget concerns while students paid for 57% of the athletics budget in 2018-19 (a percentage increasing every year) begs the question: What are the priorities of the university?
With these courses no longer available, it will leave a big hole for students who look at PE courses as a way to unwind. It was an opportunity to destress from the rigorous nature of other classes and in the process, many learned new skills. With a number of these classes held outdoors, the interactive nature helped students socialize and participate more compared to a lecture setting.
Even with these classes being virtual now due to COVID-19, the structured aspect of these courses can help students’ mental health during the time we live in. Activity is important for the mental well-being of students and even when we can resume classes on campus, that part will surely be missed.
Students’ contributions to athletics continue to grow while the return continues to lessen. There has been no transparency in a decision that affects thousands of students, which is especially important during a pandemic when on-campus conversation is not possible. The promises made by the administration many years ago continue to be broken little by little as time goes on.
Removing the teacher-coach model prevents the university from providing well-rounded academic experience to its students especially when athletics is predominantly paid for in the form of student fees. Students deserve to know when drastic measures will be taken––the decision on PE classes is no exception.
Written by: The Editorial Board