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COUNCIL 2004-2005 Year-End Committee Reports

Committee on Recreation and Intercollegiate Athletics
April 5, 2005

During the 2004-2005 academic year the University Council Committee on Recreation and Intercollegiate Athletics (CRIA) had five charges: 1.  Investigate mechanisms that will integrate recreation/athletics into the everyday life of students; 2. Assess adequacy of indoor athletic facilities; 3.  Monitor improvements to academic support programs for student athletes; 4. Investigate ways to promote greater faculty involvement in the advising and mentoring of student athletes; and 5. Investigate ways to alleviate pressure from coaches and fellow teammates not to undertake certain programs (e.g. study abroad) which are in the student’s best interest but not necessarily that of the team.

1.  Investigate mechanisms that will integrate recreation/athletics into the everyday life of students.

Given the increasing importance of fitness and recreation in maintaining an individual’s health and well-being, the CRIA has considered ways to more broadly integrate recreation and athletics into the everyday life of the student body. This integration is not only essential to maintaining the health and well-being of the students while attending the University, but also promotes the development of skills to incorporate recreation and fitness into daily activities throughout life. In reviewing ways in which the University currently integrates recreation and athletics into student life, the Committee found that the Pottruck Center has been a major success in achieving these goals. The Pottruck facility provides an opportunity for students to take advantage of a wide range of recreational and fitness activities and to interact with others engaged in these activities. Both the traffic flow within the facility and the interaction spaces allow students to be exposed to a wide range of recreational activities. The presence of multiple activities within a single facility allows students to engage in social groups that utilize the recreation and fitness facilities without limiting participation to a single activity (i.e. sport) as is the case with the club sports. 

Despite the success of the Pottruck facility, the Committee found that the University’s other recreation and athletic facilities do not take an optimal advantage of its broad resources to introduce and integrate fitness and recreation into everyday student life. The Committee feels that too many activities that might lead to life-long recreational pursuits take place in isolated facilities or are not accessible to students lacking prior experience in the activity. In addition, students are not exposed to the highest levels of athletic abilities that can be achieved in these areas because the athletic teams during training do not come in contact with the intramural/recreational activities of the rest of the student body. In a number of our peer institutions such as Princeton, Dartmouth, and Cornell, these hurdles are overcome by integrating intramural activities and intercollegiate training on dedicated, but closely, juxtaposed fields. The availability of recreational practice fields within the same complex allows students to gain experience and exposure to a wide variety of recreational pursuits at varying levels of ability and participation. While it would be ideal to duplicate this type of organization given the urban nature of our campus, the Committee urges that we consider the development of athletic facilities that achieve a similar purpose but within an urban environment. With these objectives in mind, the planned development of an athletic field house on the recently acquired postal annex property is strongly endorsed by the Committee. 

The development of a modern fieldhouse would allow students of different abilities to learn and train in a variety of fitness and recreational activities side-by-side. Furthermore, given the inclement weather during a large part of the academic year, a fieldhouse would allow for these activities to go on uninterrupted. A centrally-located field house surrounded by a series of multipurpose practice fields can achieve the University’s goals in recreation and athletics on a footprint compatible with an urban environment. The central location of the fieldhouse will allow the athletic department to coordinate the use of the associated outside athletic activities while preserving some of the outside spaces for unscheduled (pick-up) recreational activities. This would alleviate a common concern voiced by the student body: The current intense pressure for the existing University athletic fields and facilities does not allow for the possibility of spontaneous or pick-up recreational activities. After careful review, the Committee believes that the current plan to make the building of a fieldhouse on the newly acquired postal annex site a central part of the University Development Plan a high priority for improving student life and education at the University of Pennsylvania.

2.  Assess adequacy of indoor athletic facilities.

The committee attempted to identify facilities used by either intercollegiate or recreation programs which need to be improved. Most obvious are the indoor athletic facilities at the University of Pennsylvania which are inadequate, particularly for our intercollegiate programs. Currently we have only one facility that can be used for all of our intercollegiate teams for training especially during periods of inclement weather and/or the winter months. Known as “the bubble,” this temporary structure is located behind the Hollenback Center. Its small size presents scheduling and academic issues for all our student/athletes since many teams can only use the facility in the late evening. Furthermore, its rundown condition and poor lighting represent potential safety hazards as well. Only Columbia University within the Ivy group has a similar deficit in facilities. However, Columbia University does have access to The Armory Track on West 168th St. In order to remain competitive with our peers and to ensure an adequate educational experience, the committee feels strongly that every effort should be made to build a proper indoor facility commensurate with the size of the University and its athletic programs.

3.  Monitor improvements to academic support programs for student athletes.

a) Recent graduation data released by the NCAA shows that University compares very favorably with its sister institutions (see http://www2.ncaa.org/academics_and_athletes/education_and_research/ academic_reform/

b) Hiring of a full-time academic support assistant to supervise tutoring sessions permitted their expansion from an original three to five sessions/week (three night; two afternoon). Over 125 student/athletes are now participating in this program.

c) Increasing numbers of student/athletes are talking of advising and CRIA strongly recommends the hiring of an additional assistant to manage this aspect of academic support program.

d) The use of other student/athletes as tutors appears to be successful and has an added benefit of not depleting the tutor pool from other academic support programs on campus.

e) As an extension of its academic support program, DRIA has purchased a number of laptop computers for teams to take with them during “away” games/contests thus allowing student/athletes an opportunity to complete papers and lab reports while they travel.

f) The number of students enrolled in the Academic Enhancement has decreased significantly. This DRIA program was designed to identify student/athletes who though they were NCAA-eligible (2.0 GPA; eight course units/year) were not making satisfactory progress towards obtaining a Penn degree. Once identified, student/athletes are given a series of individualized goals and milestones that will place them on a trajectory to achieve their degree at the conclusion of athletic eligibility.  Students who fail to meet the goals of this program in a timely manner are not certified for NCAA competition by DRIA. 

The decreased numbers of student/athletes in this remedial program is encouraging and may well be the result of both more selective admissions decisions and a progressive program of academic support.

g) CRIA has been working with the administration on a Mid-semester Warning System as a way of notifying undergraduate students that their academic performance in a course requires a greater application of effort.  The Committee has received many promises over the last four years but without success.  The Committee requests the support of the Council in implementing this system, for it will benefit not only our student/athletes but also the students and their academic support services campus wide.

4.  Investigate ways to promote greater faculty involvement in the advising and mentoring of student athletes.

DRIA developed a team mentor program and about one third of its teams have active team mentors.

5.  Investigate ways to alleviate pressure from coaches and fellow teammates not to undertake certain programs (e.g. study abroad) which are in the student’s best interest but not necessarily that of the team.

The Committee feels strongly that the educational experience and opportunities of student/athletes be as close as possible to that of other members of the student body not engaged in intercollegiate athletics.  The tra ditional Penn study abroad program is very flexible.  Student/athletes can study abroad in either the fall or spring semesters making it possible for those who play fall sports to take advantage of the program in the spring semester and vice versa for spring sports.  In those sports whose seasons bridge both seasons student/athletes can use the summer should they desire to participate in this educational experience. 

In the course of the investigations, the committee noted the following additional opportunities are available to Penn student/athletes:

a) Summer Abroad.  Penn offers 11 pre-approved Summer Abroad Programs, www.sas.upenn.edu/CGS/summer/abroad/index.php which range from four to eight weeks between May and August.

b) Many other universities and programs offer summer study abroad options, however since these are not ‘Penn-approved’, student/athletes will need to seek academic pre-approval for all coursework taken.

c) A “Five Year Plan.” In the past, one Penn student/athlete who was injured decided to go abroad. Once he returned, he had a year of eligibility remaining; he enrolled at Penn for an extra semester/year in order to play his sport. 

d) Short Term Study Abroad. There are many short term study abroad options that take place during summer and winter breaks.  Students and coaches can find more information about this at www.iiepassport.org/webapp/controller/AdvPassportSearchForm, under term: click on short term.

e) Service Learning Options. Students interested in the cultural experience of studying abroad but are concerned that a few weeks will not satisfy their needs, might want to consider volunteering while taking courses abroad for the summer or winter breaks.  Some options can be found at Service Learning Options www.ipsl.org/

f) Work/Internship Options. For students who do not want to give up the opportunity to participate in a summer internship to go abroad, the University of Michigan’s website www.umich.edu/~icenter/overseas/work/index.html has a comprehensive list of work/intern abroad options.

g) Alternative Spring Break. Many universities offer alternative spring break option for students interested in volunteering during their semester break. Most of these options are located in the U.S., but there are some that are outside of the country. 

2004-2005 Committee on Recreation and Intercollegiate Athletics Members

Chair: Edward T. Lally (path/dental); Faculty:Elisabeth Barton (anatomy & cell boil-dent), Steven Galetta (neurol/med), Richard Hodinka (pediatrics), Edward T. Lally (path/dental), Bill McCool (nurs), Warren Seider (chemical engr), Camillo Taylor (computer & info sci), Craig Thompson (hemat-oncol/med), Graduate/professional students: Rebecca  Lacher, Ann Tiao; Undergraduate students: Amy Rublin  (COL ’07), Zack Rosenblum (COL ’06); PPSA: Donna Butler (OIP), Karlene Burrell-McRae (Makuu); WPSA: Cathy Cuadrado-Chester (Wharton Repro), Dana Van Cliff (Wharton Repro); Ex Officio:Steve Bilsky (dir, rec & intercollegiate athletics), James Gardner (representative, president’s office), Raymond Pace (vice provost Univ life designee)


  Almanac, Vol. 52, No. 5, September 27, 2005


September 27, 2005
Volume 52 Number 5


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