It’s not a secret. It’s hard to keep $40 million a secret, especially when said money is being spent on a new facility at a school struggling tremendously in the financial department. Plus, why would so much money be spent on a new athletic facility while academic departments are faltering and one academic building has been closed due to its inability to house classes. And don’t get me started on the condition of some of the dorms.
Yet, sitting on Bill Edwards Drive is the HPER center, and that building, in fact that entire center, is getting a facelift. It’s kind of ridiculous to be allocating funds to athletics when the very essence of the university, academics, is struggling to stay afloat.
Convincing argument, huh? And when I, as a student-athlete hear that argument, I can’t help but feel attacked. When I hear the debate, part of my heart crumbles, and all of me wants to cry out, “I love the dance department and language departments, too!” The new athletic facility and all the money being poured into it have fueled more fire to the battle of academics versus athletics. There shouldn’t be a battle. The two should coexist, and as a student and an athlete, I want to see it as such.
After hearing this constant debate, even after Torch articles have been published explaining the process for the new athletic facility, I educated myself to see where the money is actually coming from. And it’s not coming from the university. In fact, it’s coming from donations and endowments specifically allocated to fund a new athletic facility, plus a historical grant for the historical value of the old fieldhouse. That’s one of the reasons why the board has approved it.
Another reason? The mere presence of a new building on campus, with shiny buttons and whistles and fun toys will excite current students and bring in new students. Almost everyone on campus uses the HPER, no matter if you’re an athlete practicing, a student working out, or a fan cheering in the stands.
Plus, the HPER isn’t only used for athletics. Remember new students days spent in the HPER? Or how about Witt Series events in Pam Evans Smith Arena? Surely you must remember when it rained last April, and WittFest could no longer be outside, but was moved indoors. The new athletic facility will not only have renovated areas for athletics and wellness, it will also include “technology-enabled classroom space” and “multi-purpose recreational rooms for group fitness classes and special-event space.” That sounds like more room for club sports with nowhere to practice, for wellness classes stuck in academic building, and for recreational events too large for the chapel.
Yet, these facts are easily attainable to all. So, why then is there still a debate? Why do we have to choose a side: academics or athletics?
As a student, I’ve learned many valuable lessons I will carry with for the rest of my life. I’ve grown in my love of literature, came to finally understand Pre-Calculus, and learned more about outer-space and watersheds. I can hold an intellectual conversation about media and politics, analyze messages in the media, and write full-length screenplays and short stories. The time I’ve spent in the classroom is invaluable, and I’ll cherish it forever.
But that doesn’t mean I’ve learned nothing in the gym. I’ve grown to be a fierce competitor, to fight against adversity and persevere when practices run long and workouts push me to my breaking point. I’ve learned the strength of being a leader and the value of being a follower. I see the joys and hardships in teamwork. And most of all, I’ve learned about myself, and who I am, to be confident on and off the court because of my gifts. The times I’ve spent in the gym is invaluable, and I’ll cherish it forever.
I get it. I understand both sides of the debate. I know how hard it is to see our university struggling because I’m so indebted to the professors and teachers here who have shared so much of their knowledge with me and who have prepared me so well to leave Wittenberg in a year.
But I also know how important athletics are to the university, how much they affect not only the athletes, but the entire student population. What drew me to Wittenberg and was the essential key in my decision was not academics and was not athletics. It was home. Wittenberg prides itself on being a family, on coming together when the going gets tough. On being Witt Strong. When one department has been given the resources to do something for the benefit of the community, why aren’t we as a family supporting them? It’s hard to look past the individual pieces of Witt so important to us and look at the bigger picture. But that’s what families do. Families love each other and support one another.
Academics and athletics can coexist in harmony. But that’s a decision we need to make as members of this Tiger family.