COMMENTARY: University response to athletic spending disheartening

Louisville graduate student Mark Reeves

Mark Reeves

I was surprised to read that Dr. Ransdell feels that “no good…can come from making statistical comparisons to try to prove a point.” My understanding was that statistical comparisons were useful precisely in order to prove a point.

Since Dr. Ransdell continually emphasizes the need for “data-driven” policy, I am curious to know how else he and his administration make comparisons, since statistics are apparently out. Moreover, rather than discouraging students from applying the techniques in the real world, I think our university should be encouraging students to make useful comparisons with statistics.

I suspect that Dr. Ransdell only applies this criterion to statistical comparisons that fail to support his own opinions. Since WKU continues to embark on expensive and unnecessary building programs (after neglecting for too long the needed renovation of Thompson Complex) amid declining enrollment and reduced state funding, I suspect that many statistical comparisons prove points which Dr. Ransdell finds “no good.” 

After all, WKU now spends more to pay its football coaches ($1.82 million – without benefits: then we’re up to $2.2 million) than it does to fund operations in Potter College ($1.54 million). For an administration that claims a commitment to retention, one wonders why more money goes to retaining high quality football staff than to funding the academic programs which directly fulfill the university’s stated mission: preparing “students of all backgrounds to be productive, engaged, and socially responsible citizen-leaders of a global society.” 

Yet, WKU is not fulfilling this mission for students “of all backgrounds”: as this year’s Diversity Plan Assessment Report shows (on page 12), retention has gotten worse for African-American students – down to 47.66% making it year three (after only 63% making it to the second year). In light of the numbers on money cited above, maybe it makes sense why we’re not preparing students “of all backgrounds” – as always, follow the money.

As our university community approaches a difficult time of painful budget cuts, we’re going to have to make meaningful statistical comparisons. Those comparisons need to be founded on what we prioritize – that is, on what we want WKU to be all about.

As students, we need to be asking ourselves why we came to WKU. When it comes down to it, do we take out large amounts of student debt to enjoy entertainment complexes, or to get quality degrees? I would encourage every student to make a useful statistical comparison on that question, especially as details about next year’s budget emerge. I would encourage Dr. Ransdell to take other people’s points more seriously, too, especially when the statistics don’t point his way.

-Mark Reeves, Louisville graduate student