By Melissa Prentice
Arizona Daily Wildcat
What is "centrality?" Could it possibly be a financial issue?
These were questions that faculty and staff members proposed to the Faculty Senate special committee studying the proposed elimination of the physical education program. And these were questions that the committee members said they were unable to answer.
"I don't follow the kind of logic that follows that a teacher training program is not central to the mission of a university," said William Illig, an exercise and sports sciences academic advisor. "What is central?"
Michael Norvelle, a faculty member in the College of Agriculture, also questioned the university's mission as a land-grant institution. "Isn't there a mandate for the mission of a land-grant institution to continue this department that is furthering the physical dimension within the state?"
John McElroy, an English professor and committee member, said he too has questioned what is considered central to the university.
"This issue has come up over and over and will probably be one of the major points of our report," he said. "I have the same puzzlement as you do about how this particular program does not fit into the university's stated mission statement."
Another committee member, John Bradley, a language, reading and culture professor, said "it seems to me
and culture professor, said "It seems to me physical education would be central."
Last month President Manuel T. Pacheco seconded Provost Paul Sypherd's recommendation to eliminate the program because it was "not sufficiently central to the university's mission to justify devoting substantial resources to its support." The Arizona Board of Regents now has final say over the issue after the committee makes a recommendation to Pacheco.
The faculty forum last night was the first of three fact-gathering forums held by the committee. The first was held with students last week and the committee will meet with community members Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. at the Doubletree Hotel.
In response to questions about the monetary savings of eliminating the department, committee members said that the activity programs and athletic training program are "more than self sustaining" and the only savings would be the $569,000 in faculty salaries.
"Money would be saved for the university, but because the school districts would have to pay there would not be much savings for tax payers," Bradley said. The Tucson Unified School District has nine athletic trainer interns and if the department is eliminated, it could cost TUSD as much as $400,000 to replace these interns with professional trainers, he said.
Claire Parsons, a nursing professor and chair of the committee, said "the impact (of eliminating the department) is "more and more apparent," for the 5,000 students who participate in the physical activity classes and for the children across the state who "will not have the supervision of certified instructors, at least from the University of Arizona."
Before the final decision has been made, the program is already being affected, McElroy said.
"The odd thing is that there have already been considerable steps taken to dismantle the program, it has already been knocked down quite a few notches and money would be needed to build it up again," he said. "And all this is being done while the procedures of review are still going on."
The biggest concern voiced by the faculty was the potential precedent-setting ability of the procedure involved in eliminating the department and the need to clarify the process.
Jean Williams, a exercise and sports science faculty member, said she asked the board to "clarify the process" and "spell out the dos and don'ts of what is appropriate and what is not at various stages.
"I know this is the first time to eliminate a department ... like this and we are all learning, but it seems that the administrators clearly did not have access to all the knowledge you have generated when they made their decisions," she said. "It makes sense that earlier in the process we should have gathered all the data and make a decision based on that decision. That would lead to better decisions and to less reactionary responses."
Committee members said they agreed that Sypherd and Pacheco "ignored some of that information" when making their decisions. They said the administrators followed the first recommendation of the Strategic Planning and Budget Advisory Committee that called for eliminating the program, rather than SPBAC's revised recommendation that just called for eliminating the for-credit athletic classes.
"It is like taking an incomplete study or pilot study and making conclusions based on that preliminary data and then continuing the research but ignoring the rest of the data," Bradley said.
The faculty and staff members asked the committee to ask for the support of the entire Faculty Senate because "it is easy to discount a recommendation of a small committee rather than a whole body."
They also asked that the committee ensure that the committee's views will be heard by the regents and not just passed on to Pacheco and ignored.
At the end of the forum, faculty and staff in attendance took an informal unanimous vote to "save the department."
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