On March 7th, 8th and 9th, California State University, Northridge students will vote on a referendum to increase student fees to support intercollegiate athletic programs. The Associated Students are supporting a fee referendum requesting $27 per student per semester, which will enable the campus to conduct a more competitive and comprehensive intercollegiate athletic program while achieving equity in athletic programs for women. The vote of the student body is very important to all of us because it will determine the extent to which intercollegiate athletic competition will be among the features of the campus for many years to come.
I support the decision of the elected representatives of the student body and want to take this opportunity to share the perspective I bring to the issue. Faculty, students and staff, as well as members of the external community and the press, have expressed a wide range of views during these past several months. Most have been thoughtful and offered in a spirit of constructive debate about the campus's means and priorities. I have reviewed each comment personally and have acquired a good sense of the benefits and risks associated with the fee referendum.
Among the several reasons for my support is a respect for the democratic process represented by the elected members of the Associated Student governing body. They, too, have heard from both supporters and opponents of the fee referendum. They have considered alternatives seriously and taken a position recognizing the certainty that some group - either student athletes, or opponents of intercollegiate athletics, or students who have a different vision about the array of activities Cal State Northridge should provide - will not welcome the outcome of the vote. I commend them for the quality of their deliberative process and for their willingness to assume the kind of risk that responsibility often entails.
One of the most interesting pieces I've read over the last several months was an address entitled "Intercollegiate Athletics and Liberal Education" by Keith Quincy, Professor of Government at Eastern Washington University. He discussed the philosophy of the ancient Athenians in encouraging their society to achieve uniqueness. Drama and poetry contests encouraged individuals to transcend traditional cultural forms; athletic contests enabled individuals to break the boundaries of what was thought physically possible. As the inspiration for what we call liberal education today, the ancient Greeks understood its objective to be overcoming limitations of background, culture, and biology.
Quincy also discussed the somewhat literal extension of the Greek view - that while most student learning in a university is at the level of a novice or an apprentice in preparation for later careers in which uniqueness may be achieved, students can achieve distinction in intercollegiate athletics.
The window for athletic greatness belongs to the young; it is small and fleeting.
I would like ours to be a university in which highly motivated women and men can reach for excellence in athletic competition as well as in scholarship. And I share little with those who describe the campus in deprecating terms as "only a commuter school" or a campus that "can't expect to have the same kinds of activities as UCLA or USC." Our students are as deserving as students at other universities to participate in clubs and organizations, to receive a first class education, and to enjoy cultural, educational and athletic activities. Our University should aspire to provide our students with the opportunity to excel and, within our means, offer an array of activities and programs that will enrich our educational environment and our community. The student government has taken a stance that would help us fulfill that aspiration.
Our dialogue about this issue has highlighted the necessity that excellence be the goal of all of our programs and activities. I would like to assure every member of this community that a standard of excellence will be required in the conduct of our intercollegiate athletic programs as well - in the performance of our coaches in supporting student achievement as athletes and scholars; in the requirements that administrative staff utilize resources wisely and achieve increased levels of private and community support; and in the clear expectation that student athletes will conduct themselves with exemplary integrity as representatives of the University.
Blenda J. Wilson
February 28, 1995