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Open Letter: Sport Studies program should be reinstated

Jennifer Williams/The Ithacan
Stephen Mosher, coordinator of the Sport Studies minor program, teaches his Social Aspects of Sport class in 2014.

Dear Ithaca College Community,

On April 22, 2014, Ithaca College’s former Interim Provost and Vice President of Educational Affairs and current Dean of the School of Health Sciences and Human Performance, Linda Petrosino, announced the discontinuation of the Sport Studies (Bachelor of Arts) major to be completely terminated by Spring Semester 2018. The decision to eliminate the program has left many, including myself, perplexed over the elimination, the deficiency, and the ill-informed decision-making skills the Dean and other administrators involved with this decision have displayed over the past two years. I want to share with you the hypocrisies, inconsistencies, and lack of judgment the administration has displayed in eliminating Sport Studies.

In the Spring semester of 2013, the Sport Management and Media department submitted its program review document to the Academic Policies Committee for review. Part of the review said, “An outside evaluation was conducted by Dr. Laurence Chalip of the University of Illinois. Dr. Chalip is widely considered to be a leader in the field, with expansive knowledge of both the genesis of departments, as well as future trends in the industry.” In Dr. Chalip’s overall evaluation of the department, he made a clear recommendation that the department retain the Sport Studies program. This recommendation clearly was ignored. Further, in no section of the program review document did the department itself suggest that the program be eliminated. Thus, the recommendation to eliminate the program came explicitly from Dean Petrosino. In the Spring 2014 semester, former Student Government Association Vice President of Academic Affairs, Isuru Perera-Somasinghe, met with former Provost and Vice President for Educational Affairs, Marisa Kelly, to discuss the termination of the major and came away with the following: “The recommendation to cut the program was an interdepartmental understanding that was posited via Program review that I believe every program undergoes.” When Isuru cited the potential cost issues surrounding increased enrollment, the response he received was that it was more about a strategic vision than it was about cost and enrollment. If the program was being eliminated for strategic vision, eliminating Sport Studies clearly goes against the recently concluded feasibility study, which included interviews with members of the Board of Trustees and other close alumni, parents, and friends. Early solicitation discussions with campaign committee members have reaffirmed the resolution and recommendations. One of those priorities in the campaign included, “Programs that encourage students to grow intellectually and socially, both on and off campus, and connect them with the global marketplace no matter where they are.” Sport Studies does just that as the program has inspired at least eight to nine students to pursue and achieve PhDs in the field. Why eliminate a program that meets the priority? Eliminating the program completely goes against the values of the Integrative Core Curriculum as it provides any student the academic freedom to pursue a quality education. The major was carefully constructed to allow students 30 credits of free electives and, with careful planning, they could graduate with four minors or a second major. Therefore, if strategic vision is the primary reason for eliminating the program, the administration has failed to do its due diligence in its decision to eliminate Sport Studies.

In the Fall 2014 semester, I met with Dean Petrosino and was not told specific reasons why the program was being eliminated, showing major inconsistency within the administration. Yet one year later (Fall 2015), a fellow senior Sport Studies major, Kyle James, met with President Rochon, and Rochon’s response as to why the program is being eliminated is because the administration did not want a program being run through one professor. A major fallacy within Rochon’s rationale is that a student could obtain the major by taking as few as three courses with the program coordinator, Dr. Stephen Mosher. Presently, six of the seven faculty members in the department teach liberal arts courses that apply to the Sport Studies major. This only further highlights the inconsistencies among the administration. I met again with Dean Petrosino in the Fall of 2015 to ask follow-up questions and she cited low enrollment as one of the reasons why Sport Studies was being eliminated, contradicting former Provost Marisa Kelly. However, after publicly announcing the elimination of the major, according to Institutional Research data, enrollment increased by 185% from the Spring 2013 semester to Fall of 2015 semester. While it has been argued that the major had low numbers to start with (7), any student would not declare a major that was getting eliminated unless they saw value in that respective major. Further, the major currently has a near 50% minority enrollment rate (a marketer’s dream). The program has historically had high rates of minority students. Why eliminate a major that produces those numbers? Dean Petrosino has argued that because the major has small numbers, the minority rate is essentially irrelevant. Not only is that disrespectful to the seven minority enrolled students, but that rationale also does not consider that proportionally, the program still has one of the highest minority enrollment campus-wide. Since when has it become the strategic vision to eliminate a program that offers a safe haven for minority students, or better yet, marginalized students?

In the final semester in which students could declare the major, (Fall 2014), there were clear acts of negative marketing and recruiting of the major. For example, during that semester, information on the Sport Studies major could not be found under the Academic Programs portion of the Ithaca College website under the Department of Sport Management and Media. Further, the large banner that lists all of the majors that can be found at admissions events for HSHP did not include the Sport Studies major. If enrollment was such a concern among administration, how can these two acts be justified?

When I talk about negative recruiting, I can attest firsthand that negative recruiting occurred within the actual Sport Management and Media department. When I submitted the paperwork to change my major from Sport Management to Sport Studies, a current professor within the department asked a former department assistant, “Is he crazy? He will never get a job in the sport industry.” I would be willing to bet other students faced negative acts of recruiting as well. Why is this acceptable at Ithaca College? Clearly, there were multiple outside factors that led to “low enrollment,” and not the quality of the program itself.

Continuing on the notion of a lack of marketing, Sport Studies saw considerably less marketing in comparison to the other two majors within the department (Sport Management and Sport Media). During the Spring 2016 semester in an open forum held by the School of Health Sciences and Human Performance administration, senior Journalism major, Sport Studies minor, Kristen Gowdy posed multiple questions surrounding the lack of marketing the Sport Studies major. Dean Petrosino argued that the Sport Studies program is a discovery major thus students “kind of find out about it when they’re on campus.” If that is the case, enrollment should not be a major factor in deciding the program’s fate. By labeling a program a discovery major, that creates a situation where the program is essentially set up to fail.

In that same forum, Dean Petrosino publicly stated that she thought after the announcement of the program being eliminated, “Some faculty … did a hard sell in terms of outreach and recruiting.” This statement is incredibly problematic on multiple levels. First, by saying that professors did a hard sell, I interpret that as professors coerced students into declaring the major. That is simply false. Further, that notion is one of the most offensive, disrespectful things an administrator could claim from a student’s perspective. This accusation suggests students don’t know what they want with their education. This undermines our ability to make proper decisions with our education. If false scrutiny is going to be placed on faculty for making a hard sell to students, why are we not focusing on those that performed negative marketing and thus leading to a potential reason for “low enrollment?” Why are false accusations like the one Dean Petrosino made tolerated at this institution?

Dean Petrosino also mentioned at the open forum that the decision also had to do with freeing up resources for the school to be relocated to other areas of need. When asked, however, she failed to mention where the freed up resources will be relocated. Sport Studies is one of the most cost effective programs on campus. If the institution is so concerned with saving money, why are we eliminating a major that does just that, while providing a quality education to our students?

This is a poor decision in terms of reallocating resources. Further, the Sport Studies minor will continue to be offered beyond 2018. The core courses required for the major within the department will still be required for the minor. Thus, unless the minor is significantly revised, there really aren’t any resources that would be opened as a result of this elimination.

All departments are required to go through a program review process. The program review that was submitted to the Academic Policies Committee by the former chair of the department and Dean was the incorrect version. Three professors wrote and submitted an addendum that was included in the final program review document. Yet, that version of the program review never made it to APC. When I brought this to Dean Petrosino’s attention during our Fall 2015 meeting, she wanted no part of discussing the matter. In fact, by the time I brought this to her attention, I was nearly removed from her office. This begs a few questions. Why was the wrong document submitted? What is being hidden by not submitting the correct document? Finally, why is such an action acceptable at this institution?  The administration consistently tells the campus that in order for change to occur, things need to go through the proper process. In this case, the administration chose to ignore the process for what seems to be to their benefit. What that benefit it is remains unknown, which is deeply concerning.

Some of the data and evidence I am sharing in this letter has been shared with the administration. Yet, most of the evidence, such as the outside evaluation, the lack of marketing, and the wrong program review submission have been reduced by the administration to only having a small impact on the decision. However, programmatic decisions are not a circle where the decision can be cut up into an infinite amount of pieces. At some point, even if the individual pieces of evidence were small, have to come together to be a big part of the decision. Therefore, my question to the administration is: What is the big part of the decision that I am missing?

When I tie everything together, I am left confused with multiple questions the administration has failed to answer. Why are we as an institution eliminating a major that embraces the liberal arts education that I thought Ithaca College was committed to? By eliminating the Sport Studies major, there will no longer be a BA program in HSHP, turning the school into little more than a trade school. Why are we eliminating a major that intentionally encourages students to study abroad and declare a second major? These are two possibilities that are highly celebrated and supported institutionally. One third of Sport Studies majors currently are enrolled in a second major. Why are we eliminating a program that has historically had high enrollment from marginalized constituencies, especially with the build up to last semester’s issues? Why are we eliminating a program in which the administration can’t point to a legitimate reason as to why it is being eliminated? Finally, why are we as a campus community allowing the administration to yet again make a decision that goes against the long-term vision of this institution? Smaller departments on this campus should fear for their preservation. If you think that this can’t happen to your program, you are wrong. The administration runs this institution like a business, with little effort to care about education. Decisions like eliminating the Sport Studies major can and will bankrupt a business.

I am not writing this letter to you because Sport Studies is my major. I am not writing this from a state of anger. I am going to receive my diploma in less than one month. However, it would be inexcusable for me to not fully inform the Ithaca College community of the unacceptable acts that have occurred surrounding the elimination of the Sport Studies program. I fully understand that hard decisions are made everyday by administration to try to advance the institution to a better future. However, given the evidence I have provided, the administration simply got this decision wrong. I am writing to you all because there are countless individuals who have benefited from a great program and there are so many future students who will never receive the same benefits. That is, unless we as a community can come together and reverse the decision of the administration. While it is clear that a few individuals are to blame for this elimination, we as a campus need to look forward in pushing the administration to reinstate the major while also ensuring that poor decision making and lack of transparency does not occur when other programs are being evaluated. This is our time to stand up against the administration to right a highly questionable decision. We need to stand strong and save Sport Studies.


Elijah Breton

Supported by:

Hayden Sahl, 2017
Joshua Khalou, 2017
Ryan Zapolski, 2016
Thatcher Brusilow, 2016
Kevin Ivany, 2016
Wolfgang Shafer, 2017
Jonathan Beck, 2017
David Grimaldi, 2016
Jordan Brett, 2016
Christopher Hayes, 2016
Alexandra Gilligan, 2017
Miriam Bernstein, 2016
Lydia Novalis, 2017
Ryan Long, 2016
Allison Robinson, 2016
Kathleen Callahan, 2017
Christian Henry, 2017
Joseph Klein, 2017
Sam Waterbury, 2019
Frank Tessier, 2017
Eddy Tapia, 2016
Shayna Gaskins, 2017
Kelsea Schagrin, 2017
Gabriel Kaufman, 2018
Rihannon Doherty, 2017
Jennifer Moor, 2016
Sabrina Rabinowitz, 2017
Casey Lederman, 2017
Medeline Haftel, 2017
Viniva Weiss, 2017
Casey Reca, 2017
Meghan Graham, 2016
Chelsea Doig, 2017
Riley Ludwig, 2018
Alyssa Friedman, 2017
Jess Snellen, 2017
Maria Commisso, 2017
Jenna Wentzel, 2017
Nathan Wolf, 2017
Alyssa Napier, 2017
David Glaser, 2017
Annie Apuzzo, 2017
Iza Mocarski, 2018
Ruby Dyson, 2019
Hailey Adler, 2019
Marlee Wierda, 2018
Brandon Buksbaum, 2017
Eric Finkelstein, 2017
Gabriel Radoccia-Feuerstein, 2017
Marisa Nizzi, 2016
Brandon Tate, 2019
Ahmad Boyd, 2017
Nathaniel Gonzalez, 2017
Anthony Nazaire, 2019
Mohamed Shaw, 2017
Samuel Amoako, 2019
Dr. Craig Paiement, former Assistant Professor in Sport Management and Media
Dr. Heather Dichter, former Assistant Professor in Sport Management and Media
Dr. Mary Bentley, Professor, Health Promotion and Physical Education
Dr. Bruce Henderson, Professor, Communication Studies
Maura Stephens, Associate Director, Park Center for Independent Media
Part-time faculty member who cannot be named due to precarious employment
Dr. Rebecca Plante, Professor, Sociology
Dr. Patricia Rodriguez, Professor, Politics
Ciara Lucas, 2017
Sara Kim, 2017
Joelle Goldstein, 2018
Kelli Kyle, 2017
Kyle James, 2016
Dakin Camp, 2016
Brian Belvin, 2016
Melissa Patnella, 2017
Kristen Gowdy, 2016
Alexis Forde, 2017
Taylor Zambrano, 2017
Alexander Howard, 2016
Christie Citranglo, 2017
Max Gillilan, 2016
Evin Billington, 2016
Lauren Murray, 2018
Danielle Allentuck, 2019
Sarah Woychick, 2018
Jason Taylor, 2016
Sydney O’Shaughnessy, 2017
Olivia Cross, 2017
Jenny Zehner, 2016
Siobhan Stack, 2016
Katelyn Harrop, 2016
Vinica Weiss, 2017
Liza Miller, 2016
Grace Clauss, 2017
Elizabeth Morris, 2016
Kelsey McKim, 2016
Caitie Ihrig, 2018
Aaron Laramee, 2016
Erin Hurley, 2017
Andrew Sullivan, 2017
Annie Uhle, 2017
Steven Pirani, 2016
Tucker Mitchell, 2016
Julia Kohn, 2016
Sage Daugherty, 2016
Samantha Guter, 2016
Lindsey Witmer, 2016
Erica Dischino, 2017
Allie Krummann, 2017
Mariah Flaim, 2016
Michael Tkaczevski, 2016
Luke Harbur, 2018
Lee Hamacher, 2016
Ali Zdunczyk, 2016
Vincent Dodero, 2016
Mary Slack, 2016
Alyvia Covert, 2016
Dustin Albino, 2018
Courtney Leo, 2016
Alexa Salvato, 2017
Matthew Byers, 2018
Karen Macke, 2017
William Uhl, 2017
Kristina Buhagiar, 2018
Kerline Batista, 2016
Max Rankin, 2016
Abigail Helliwell, 2016
Shalice Hunt, 2018
Tyrece Whitaker, 2017
Christian Henry, 2017
Denzel Kennedy, 2017
Olivia Oppenheim, 2017
Cooper Klein, 2017
Madison Crowe, 2016
Renee Schwiezer, 2016
Merrideth Maley, 2016
Julie Nishi, 2016
Michael Falconieri, 2016
Shannon Lipe, 2016
Natalie Dionne, 2016
Marlowe Padilla, 2016
Veronica Patrascu, 2016
Nora Noone, 2016
Meredith Ryer, 2016
Amanda Lee, 2016
Nathan Antonacci, 2016
Zachary Conner, 2016
Ryan Barnas, 2016
Andrew Teitelman, 2016
Courtney Denardo, 2016
Mallery Rockwell, 2017
Evan Popp, 2018
Adam Brobst, 2018
Candice Brown, 2016
Emily Hull, 2015
Matthew Kelly, 2014
Noah Roth, 2013
Miles Surrey, 2015
Matthew Orama, 2014
Breanne Espina, 2015
Kyle Charters, 2010
Karleanne Redpath, 2015
Jenna Harner, 2016
DeVonna Francis, 2012
Lee Small, 2009
Benjamin Smith, 2014
Brian Hotchkiss, 2009
Carolyn Ambrose, 2007
Kyle Kusz, 1994
Steve Derderian, 2015
Tijah Henderson, 2016
Kaitlyn Matraassi, 2017
Gregory Melnick, 2010
Matthew Borrelli, 2013
Thomas Cosenza, 1994
Megan Goldberg, 2016
Michael Giardina, 1999
John Stanley, 2016
Samuel Gelman, 2013
Carlie McClinsey, 2019
Hannah Agate, 2018
Zachary Lisien, 2017
Jaclyn Silver, 2012
Andrew Champagne, 2010
Mario Fontana, 2004
Adam Berg, 2009
Marc Connolly, 1996
Myron Avant, 2013
Nik Dickerson, 2005
Alyssa Frey, 2014
Jamie Swinnerton, 2015
Gabrielle Hurlbut, 2018
Daniel Brauchli, 2015
Sarah Holzberg, 2015
Liya Lachovizer, 2018
Isabel Balla, 2016
Jonathan Newman, 2007
Dylan Hornblum, 2013
Matthew McCarthy, 2013
Nicole Sorce, 2013
Ryan Cluett, 2013
Shawn Wagner 2013
Morgan Racicot, 2017
Emily Ross, 2017
Olivia Abry, 2017
Michael Van Duyne, 2013
Taylor Brady, 2017
Emily Warfle, 2016
Nicholas McGahan, 2014
Mia O’Brien, 2015
AJ Reffsin, 2012
Jodie Eichel, 2012
Melissa Potter, 2018
Jessica Toglia, 2008
Sara Belcher, 2019
Samuel Waters, 2015
Joshua Greenfield, 2016
Rebecca Simpson-Wallack, 2017
Nicholas Harrington, 2017
Jodi Silberstein, 2015
Katrina Grein, 2017
Lauren Brauchli-Dickens, 2011
Kristina Stockburger, 2015
Danielle Colella, 2018
Dallas Koller, 2012
Michael Dickens, 2013
Christian Araos, 2013
Allyson Mnich, 2015
Maximillian Rottenecker, 2016
William LeBlond, 2016
Faith Maciolek, 2016
Dylan Lyons, 2014
Nicholas Rojas, 2014
Samanth Liberty, 2013
Gabrielle Berne, 2017
Stephanie Khoury, 2015
Matthew Constas, 2016
Frances Johnson, 2016
Jason Wechsler, 2016
Julia Conroy, 2013
Genifer Cohen, 2013
Diana Sparks, 2017
Sean Yoo, 2013
Whitman Ives, 2016
Daniel Yanofski, 2015
Shelby Buche, 2018
Peter Hopsicker, 1992
Lauren McAlphine, 2012
Haley Meadows, 2013
Danielle Amyot, 2014
Erin Dunphy, 2013
David Sperling, 2014
LaMarcus Grier, 2015
Daniel Fischer, 2014
Adam Santor, 2017
Madeleine Anthony, 2017
Michael Greenfield, 2014
Daniel Wisniewski, 2017
Marisa Lansing, 2019
Thomas Battistelli, 2017
Brooke Fontana, 2005
Julia Tiberio, 2014
Cory Francer, 2010
John Avino Jr., 2013
Maureen Smith, 1989
Clara O’Connor, 2018
Hakeem Hopper-Collins, 2017
Jeremy Ward, 1994
Alyssa Janes, 2017
Jordyn Steinheiser, 2017
Mia Malkin, 2019
Michael Biancardi, 2019
Lauren Skovira, 2017
William Suchanek, 2017
Abigail Quinn, 2017
Kathryn Colantuono, 2019
Danielle Calder, 2017
Madeline Mathers, 2018
Jacqueline Peterson, 2019
Brittany Pearson, 2018
Claire Park, 2019
Ryan Dubinin, 2018
Alaina Richey, 2019
Olivia Harding, 2018
Katy Stringer, 2017
Karyn Walsh, 2017
Jensen Hurley, 2016
Dr. Ellen Staurowsky, former Professor in Sport Management and Media
David Gofman, 2013
Alex Haubenstock, 2013
Chris Lotsbom, 2013
Matthew Stenberg, 2014
Rebecca McCarthy, 2013
Bailey Reagan, 2012

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