Spelman College gets rid of its athletics programs
By Boyce Watkins
There are some who consider competitive sports to be an important part of the college experience. Then, there are those who feel that it just doesn’t matter all that much. Spelman College just made the controversial decision to get rid of its competitive sports programs and trade them in for a general health and wellness philosophy.
The school said that there is roughly one million dollars dedicated to supporting the sports program, which only serves 4 percent of the school’s students.
“When I was looking at the decision, it wasn’t being driven by the cost as much as the benefit. With one million dollars, 80 student-athletes are benefiting,” said Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum, Spelman’s president. “Or should we invest in a wellness program that would touch every student’s life?”
Dr. Tatum’s decision is one that seems sensible within the context of keeping sports in perspective. Too many universities allow their academic commitment to be robbed from beneath them by overzealous athletics programs. Also, it is doubtful that the Spelman sports program was a money maker for the school, so the decision appears to be a practical one.
But Tatum might be rightly criticized for connecting the physical health of all students to the sports programs. Most universities don’t use athletics programs to keep their students healthy. That’s typically in a separate budget.
Dr. Tatum is consistent in her message, stating that she is aware that nearly half of the Spelman women has high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes or suffers from obesity.
“I have been to funerals of young alums who were not taking care of themselves, and I believe we can change that pattern not only for them but for the broader community,” Tatum said.
Tatum knows that not everyone is going to be happy with her decision, but her plan is already in the works. She knows that despite any disagreement with this policy, Spelman will continue to attract top academic talent.
“They are passionate about what they do and want to keep doing it,” Tatum said. “Students who really want to be at Spelman will still come to Spelman. Athletics has been important to those students who have participated but to the overall campus community it has not been a major emphasis.”