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Davis, California

Sunday, June 16, 2024

Reinstate PE now, we must hold the administration accountable

UC Davis administration silently cuts PE program without student consultation amidst pandemic

I’m sure by now you all are familiar with the administration’s decision to eliminate our physical education (PE) program. But if you are not, here is a brief timeline. On Sept. 25, 2020, the UC Davis administration abruptly announced that they would be cutting the PE program beginning Winter Quarter 2021. In a few meetings I have had with them, they admitted that the decision to cut PE had been in the works for the past few years. It seems likely not a coincidence that they decided to cut PE in the midst of a pandemic. 

The first excuse they used to justify their decision was enrollment decline. After being asked about how they have increasingly cut PE sections in the past couple of years, they changed their justification. In the first email sent out to the students regarding this decision, they stated it was not due to budget implications. A separate administration representative said it was due to budget implications—two contradicting points of view in a private meeting. Where’s the truth? 

A recent letter from the UC Davis Academic Senate states that the PE program’s savings would be less than $500,000 a year, at best. When I asked a representative from the administration how they would use this money, they said they would use it to fund an alternative recreation program through campus recreation. If so, what is the actual point in removing this incredibly unique and vital program for another one that might not be as accessible or of the same quality? The Academic Senate stated that “From the savings perspective alone, we find the justification for eliminating the program to be rather weak.”

I’ve been researching this issue for the past few months and have been able to work with a great team, but my interactions with administration regarding this situation have been hostile and stagnant at best. The administration’s attendance at senate meetings and private discussions regarding PE during the Fall Quarter of 2020 only made this process more difficult. They took up space during these meetings and barely let us get a word in, they lectured us on the situation as if we were children, they told us that it was inappropriate how other adults advocating for PE were pushing for us to advocate too even though the administration was practically doing the same thing. They even went as far as verbally trying to discredit me to my peers regarding this situation. 

Why didn’t they consult anyone until after they made their decision? What other vital programs might the administration cut without our knowledge? All in all, I am disappointed in our administration’s lack of consultation with the students, their hostile behavior towards students who are only looking out for other students, and their confusing reasoning. This states loudly that the administration believes $500,000 is worth more than our students’ health and wellbeing.

I urge you to fill out the petition to reinstate PE if you have not already done so. I must note that the petition heavily surrounds a discussion of student fees, particularly the Student Activity and Services Initiative (SASI) fee from 1994. Administration has pushed so fiercely that this fee has no connection to the PE program whatsoever despite SASI clearly stating the opposite.

Moreover, the Academic Senate has stated that “all evidence indicates that “the UC Davis administration committed itself to continue to fund the PE program as part of Chancellor Vanderhoef’s campaign for the transition to Division 1 of ICA,” which was directly tied to the passage of the Campus Expansion Initiative in 2003. I choose to believe that the Academic Senate has our best interests in mind, and over 5,000 students and alumni have signed this petition so far. Let’s get the petition to 10,000 and hold our administrators accountable. 

Written by: Tenzin Youedon — tyouedon@ucdavis.edu 

Tenzin Youedon is an ASUCD Senator in her third year studying political science and design.

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