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Faculty Senate Athletics Committee suggests suspending swim, dive team

April 4, 2014

Members of the UWRF swimming and diving team cheer on a teammate at a meet.
Members of the UWRF swimming and diving team cheer on a teammate at a meet. On March 28, the team was recommended to be suspended. (Kathy M. Helgeson/University Communications)

The Faculty Senate Athletic Committee voted on March 28 to recommend suspending the UW-River Falls swimming and diving program to the chancellor.

“It was not a decision that was made lightly. We did not want to do this. It makes me angry that we are in this position of cutting $1.7 million on this university when the state is in a surplus,” said Jennifer Willis-Rivera, a member of the athletic committee.

As has been the case in every meeting leading up to this decision, the swimming and diving team was well represented with members of the team and Head Coach Mike Bollinger there to show the committee why they should keep the program.

“As an institute whose goal is to prepare its students for success in the workforce, it seems counterproductive to suspend a program which enables its participants to do such,” said swimmer Lucas Hetzel. “I understand that this was a tough decision for those in power to make; but cutting the program because they do not have a facility on campus even though they refuse to build one in the Falcon Center is tough to swallow.”

Not having its own facility on the UWRF campus has been a point brought up throughout the whole process of deciding the future of the swimming and diving program but was not the main point brought up at the past committee meeting when the actual vote was made. The main reason discussed by the committee was that not only athletics but departments all over the UWRF campus do not want to do across the board cuts anymore.

Willis-Rivera, communications and theatre arts professor, said that while the swimming and diving program is the most visible program being affected by the $1.7 million campus wide budget cut the whole campus is hurting from it.

There are positions all over the UWRF campus that will be eliminated. These positions will be in everything from administrative to faculty and support staff. The other thing hurting the campus and a point that was brought up at the committee meeting was that with the tuition freeze there is no way to offset any of the budget cut with a tuition increase.

“The direction of this university has been we are not going to do across the board cuts anymore. Across the board cuts hurt everybody. The decision came down to do you suspend one program because everything has already been cut to bare bones and we do not want to cut those bare bones off of everyone,” Willis-Rivera said.

One of the big questions that came up in the meeting was whether or not the swim team could form a club team if the program did get suspended. The problem is if the team was a club team they would have to pay for the pool fees at the River Falls High School along with travel fees to get to meets. They would not likely get enough funding to be able to do this as there are already an abundance of club teams that get funded through AFAB.

The Faculty Senate Executive Committee met Wednesday, April 2, to discuss the athletic committee’s recommendation to the chancellor and the whole Faculty Senate will meet at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 9, in Room 334 of the University Center. This will be the last chance to get any last thoughts or comments made toward the decision of suspending or keeping the swim and dive program until Chancellor Dean Van Galen will make the final decision. In 2009, a vote was made to recommend suspending the program to the chancellor but he decided against it.

“I, along with the rest of the swimmers and divers on this campus, wish only the best to our fellow athletes and hope that UWRF athletics doesn’t force them into the position that we have been in for this year, and the past few years,” Hetzel said.