Petition criticizes use of funds for athletics

A recent petition has sent waves throughout the community, causing students to take sides. Supporters of the petition argue that Guilford College’s athletics programs are “bloated” and receive too much funding compared to other academic programs.

The petition was written on Oct. 23 and gained 32 signatures in its first two days. It is 18 signatures short of the 50 needed to be delivered to President Jane Fernandes.

“This past year we have laid off dozens of staff and professors in the name of budget management — our athletic programs, however, are as bloated as ever,” states the petition. “Academics should come before athletics when it comes to our budget! What we are asking is not unreasonable — a college by its very nature should prioritize academics.”

But this petition has drawn responses from both non-student athletes and student athletes who feel that participation in sports is a vital part of their Guilford experience that complements, rather than competes with, their academic focuses.

“Running cross country/track is what has immensely shaped so much of my Guilford experience thus far, but I do not neglect my education; I love to learn, I hop out of bed each week for my 8:30 a.m. Anthropology class, I love to study, read, write, etc.,” wrote junior Ava Nadel in a Facebook post.

Other student athletes feel that the petition arose from a lack of information regarding Guilford’s athletic programs.

“During the deficit, when the administrative staff made budget cuts, every single department on campus was affected, including the athletic department,” said junior and Community Senate President Molly Anne Marcotte, who runs on the track and field team.

“Athletic teams now have to fundraise in order to be able to have away games with non-conference teams. And, many athletic teams have to fundraise to get any gear besides their uniforms.”

But some supporters of the petition feel that, like many other schools across the nation, Guilford has allowed athletics to get in the way of its true academic core, which they believe is reflected in the school’s budget.

“For too long the greatest academic institutions in America have withered in dignity and academic standing as sports takes the forefront of attention and budget,” said petition signer Alexander Witek. “It’s higher education, not NFL prep. If you value the very concept of education, you will always put academics over athletics.”

Many opponents of the petition disagree, citing that athletics help to bring many students to a school that may have been completely off their radar if only academics were taken into account.

“The idea that academics need to be put in a hierarchy over athletics is problematic because both contribute to the sustainability of our school,” said Marcotte. “Athletics contributes to student retention, which in a budget crisis we need to prioritize.”

Junior Christian Honein, who created the petition, declined to comment on this issue.

While the outcome of the petition is yet to be determined, it appears that this may be an issue brought about by a misunderstanding or a lack of information on either side, and perhaps a failure to include important voices from the community, rather than a disagreement about educational principles.

“When I commented about the petition on Facebook, I mentioned how polarizing it is to the scores of students that are truly needed within the discussion; from the amount of other athletes I’ve talked to, I truly think they want to be a part of this conversation,” said sophomore Sommer Fanney in an email interview.

“We student athletes have valuable information and perspective to offer, but only if we, the school at large, begins to take on this (student-athlete) divide and its frustrations.”