Other Views: Budget proposal would devastate UW athletics
The student-athletes of the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater would like to voice their concern about Gov. Scott Walker’s budget proposal. Specifically, our concern is with the section that would allow students to voluntarily opt out of paying the allocable fee portion of their student bill. It is our belief that this would not only be detrimental to every student organization in the UW System, but would also irreversibly damage every NCAA Division III athletic program in Wisconsin.
Through our student-athletes’ campus and community leadership responsibilities, we have been educated on the funding structure of our university. Currently, UW-Whitewater Athletics receives approximately $480,000 (50 percent of its operating budget) from the allocable portion of the segregated undergraduate fees. Even with this exceptional institutional support, our student-athletes are expected to go above and beyond the time commitments of their studies and athletic pursuits to fundraise the other 50 percent of our athletic department’s operating budget.
Granting the opt-out feature would assuredly result in a marked decline from existing funding levels, leaving us with an even more immense shortfall to cover. The resulting uncertainties surrounding the funding of athletics would undoubtedly lead to enrollment reductions as hundreds of athletes choose to attend other institutions where they can be assured a chance to compete. Retaining high quality coaches to lead our programs will be close to impossible.
A study done by our campus’ Fiscal and Economic Research Center in 2015 found that UW-Whitewater Athletics and its related events contribute more than $7 million to the regional economy annually. UW-Whitewater Athletics increases regional traffic by an average of 54,910 people per year.
Additionally, UW-Whitewater Athletics is home to the Warhawk Leadership Academy, a program that focuses on the intentional engagement and development of our student-athletes. The academy has been recognized as the 2016 N4A Model Student-Athlete Development Program of the Year, the 2016 Wisconsin Colleges Personnel Association Innovative Program of the Year and a 2017 Gold Winner of the NASPA Excellence Awards. If the proposal to opt out of allocable fees is adopted, the ability of the UW-Whitewater Athletic Department to continue to be a national leader in all aspects of intercollegiate athletics would be irreversibly compromised.
Expanding beyond our campus, the detrimental effects of this proposal would be felt throughout the NCAA Division III’s most successful conference. The Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, composed entirely of UW System schools, is the ninth oldest conference of the NCAA and has earned more NCAA national championships than any other Division III conference in history, winning more than 50 titles since 2005 alone.
If the allocable fee opt-out proposal came to fruition, it is foreseeable that the WIAC would dissolve because of massive declines in sport sponsorship by WIAC schools. This immense disbandment of allocable fee funded programming would extend far beyond varsity athletics. Minority associations, professional development organizations, club sports, student government and other integral student and campus life services would experience similar catastrophic loss in opportunity and culture within the UW System.
Michael J. Salm is an intern with the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. Other contributors to this column include Amanda Van Duyn, president of the Warhawk Leadership Academy President; Rory Calabria, Warhawk Leadership Academy intern; and Lauren Pfeifer, president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.