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Commentary: Sport studies major should not be eliminated

Will+Weiss%2C+right%2C+participated+in+a+panel+discussion+for+Sport+Media+Day+on+April+13%2C+2012.+Weiss+wants+Ithaca+College+to+reconsider+the+elimination+of+the+sport+studies+major%2C+which+was+finalized+April+22.
Courtesy of Ithaca College
Will Weiss, right, participated in a panel discussion for Sport Media Day on April 13, 2012. Weiss wants Ithaca College to reconsider the elimination of the sport studies major, which was finalized April 22.

As an alumnus and friend to Ithaca College, and someone who has reaped the intellectual benefits of the sport studies program as both an undergraduate and professional, I question the potential economic and political motives to discontinue the sport studies major. Juxtaposing this perceived cost-cutting measure with the news of key administrators receiving compensation increases only heightens suspicion.

From an academic standpoint, the decision does not seem to be in the best academic interests of students. In truth, it runs counter to President Tom Rochon’s IC 20/20 initiative, where cross-functional learning and a mixture of liberal arts and applied courses are encouraged.

Why sport studies? Sport studies provides the theoretical foundation for understanding the games themselves, why they exist, the micro and macro socioeconomic issues affecting leagues, teams, athletes and sport’s place in culture.

The sport studies curriculum provides a basis for critical thinking. The elective courses in English, history, philosophy, writing and social sciences form that basis. Perhaps if those at the forefront of the sport media landscape understood events like the hazing scandal in Sayreville, New Jersey, the domestic violence and sexual assault incidents involving NFL and college football players, Title IX or FIFA’s allowance of Russia and Qatar to host the next two World Cups in a sport studies context, the reporting and commentary would be more critical.

One of the greatest advantages to the bachelor of arts in sport studies degree is that it presents infinite job options: graduate school, law school, training, teaching, coaching and numerous counseling pursuits. Sport studies graduates are C-level executives — CEOs, company presidents, etc. — entrepreneurs, writers, broadcasters, teachers, coaches, trainers, attorneys, public relations and marketing representatives.

My own sphere of sport studies alumni — a combination of majors and minors — includes multiple Emmy Awards and Super Bowl rings, an ESPN TV personality, two espn.com writers, two lawyers — including a U.S. Attorney — four company founders and CEOs, several college professors, a PhD candidate and, cumulatively, thousands of hours and dollars given back to Ithaca College. They also demonstrate the impact that a background in the liberal arts can have on our professional and day-to-day lives.

The bachelor of arts degree is the competitive differentiator of sport studies at Ithaca College. Not once in my years as an undergrad or alumnus have I seen that fact promoted. Does the administration want to risk prospective students who may be interested in sport studies go to a different university that has a similar, but not necessarily better, program?

College, at its core, is a place of higher learning. It is, ideally, a bastion of thought and critical thinking above profit. Elimination of the sport studies major is tantamount to the removal of specialized fields of study rooted in the humanities such as sociology, anthropology, political science or the source of my degree, journalism.

Instead of cutting the sport studies program, I offer this solution: Alumni, students and appropriate parties within the faculty and administration should collaborate on a workable alternative that benefits the college’s community both economically and academically.

Will Weiss ’00 is a project manager at Ooyala Inc., an online video technology company. Email him at [email protected].

 

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