FRANKLIN PIERCE UNIVERSITY: UPDATE FROM JOCK U.

Been a while since I last wrote.  It has been a very busy semester, what with four courses, service on a governance committee, and a number of tasks in service to the faculty union, the Rindge Faculty Federation.  Thankfully, classes are generally going well, and I am especially fortunate to have a strong group of students in the Honors section of American Experience.  Chingachgook will not be forgotten!

Athletics, the dominant program here at Franklin Pierce University, also continues to roll along, with their myriad sports info personnel (more than the total serving the rest of the University), the grad assistants, and all the other perks that go along with being a Division II powerhouse.  The only thing missing is student enthusiasm.  For example, ask the average student and they haven’t attended any games or matches and care even less.  Even recent playoff matches appeared poorly attended, especially given many there were faculty, visitors, and students on other athletic teams.  But the myth persists that Athletics provides us news coverage and an identity, even if the latter is non-existent here on the Rindge campus.  I always imagine it as a façade, a “Potemkin village” (go ahead and Google it).  The only sport at present that students seem to get fired up about is rugby—a club sport, one pushed by students, and one not yet featuring a large contingent of scholarship athletes.  In other words, kind of like a Division III sport.  Wait until it becomes a scholarship sport-the enthusiasm will die away.

Here’s a few more recent items to consider.  Today I had to explain to students in my first-year seminar that athletes get to register for Spring classes one day before non-athletes.  I always feel odd having to announce that, since it is so patently unfair.  Supposedly athletes are unable to get classes at times convenient to their practice and training sessions, so their needs trump those of all other students in their class-year.  That was a decision made by the Administration years ago, without consulting faculty, no evidence presented as to the need, and no consideration of alternatives.  One can only wish Academics had as powerful an advocate as the Athletic Director!

There have also been recent rumors of sexual assaults, possibly involving athletes.  Just today (Tuesday, November 9) there was an announcement confirming the reporting of two sexual assaults, though of course no further information was provided.  Now, unless a victim or direct witness comes forward to press the allegations, little can be done by the University.  What is both saddening and maddening is the seeming unwillingness of administrators to even address what might be a serious problem.  The goal is to always prevent such assaults from ever occurring, but if they do occur, we need to be certain everyone knows how to proceed.  Yet it is only today that the agenda for our monthly faculty meeting for the first time even raises issues involving sexual assaults, reporting, etc.  How many staff or faculty receive formal, extensive, and relevant training on these issues?  When were the last such formal training sessions held?  Do coaches and assistants receive any such training?  What about athletes themselves?  Then there is the Clery Act, with its requirements for disclosure of crime statistics, reporting, and maintenance of a public crime log.  Who are the parties responsible for ensuring FPU’s compliance?  Have they been trained?  I know concerned faculty pressing on this issue, but they tell me they have received virtually no support and nary an encouraging word from the “powers that be.”  Without formal allegations, it is easy to claim there is no problem, but isn’t the point of all these laws and trainings to raise awareness and to PREVENT any such occurrences?  So can we finally get some serious work done on this at Franklin Pierce University?

Lastly, a notice went out today announcing new faculty positions, one of which is in Sports Management, a thriving major here at Franklin Pierce University and Athletic Camp (FPUAC).  Although an academic program, the position mandates that as first priority after teaching major courses, the applicant “establish working relationships with the Athletic Department, student athletes and related personnel.”  In fact, this takes precedence over such ‘mundane’ activities as teaching in Gen Ed, advising students, or contributing institutional service.  So, is this program to be an arm of Athletics?  Why must this faculty member privilege athletes among all students?  We recently hired a new faculty member in Psychology—did the job description mandate close work with University counseling services?  Will the new Accounting professor be required to work with the Business Office?  No, so this is unique.  Athletic coaches already have access to their student-athletes academic records, as they are listed as co-advisors along with academic faculty.  Are the next steps already in motion to make an academic program the direct subsidiary of Athletics?  My claim that FPU is a university attached to an athletic program was meant in jest—is it now to become a reality?

Douglas Ley
Pierce Arrow Blogger

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