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COUNCIL 2005-2006 Year-End Report
October 17, 2006, Volume 53, No. 8
Committee on Recreation & Intercollegiate Athletics (CRIA)

Self-Evaluation Report

Charges to Committee

General Charges: CRIA has cognizance over recreation and intramural and intercollegiate athletics and their integration with the educational program of the University, including the planning and provision of adequate facilities for various sports and recreational activities.

Because CRIA’s membership was involved in the ongoing review of the University’s adherence to the rules and regulations of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), permission was sought and granted for CRIA members to focus on the NCAA Report until its submission in January.  After that time, regular meetings were held to deal with ongoing issues facing the University community regarding recreation and athletics.

Topics that were discussed and recommendations herein made by the Committee included:

1. Greenspace issues:

There has been a concern over the last several years of an overall loss of open playing greenspace on the main campus.  This concern has been raised by undergraduate and graduate student groups, staff, and faculty.  The issue was revisited by CRIA this year, and was deemed to be very relevant to campus life, so meetings were arranged with Mark A. Kocent (Principle Planner, Facilities & Real Estate Services), Dr. Michael Diorka (Director, Department of Recreation),  and Steven Bilsky (Director, Recreation & Intercollegiate Athletics) to discuss and investigate this issue.  The goal of these meetings was to find ways of preserving current playing greenspace on campus and potentially finding new areas for greenspace expansion in locations which would be easily accessible for the campus community. 

Current areas of open greenspace on campus were visited, as well as potential future sites.  The general feeling during the meetings with administration was that this was a critical issue, that there has been an increasing loss of open playing greenspace in recent years, and that the preservation of current open spaces and the expansion of playing greenspace were not only important to overall University community life, but were possible to attain.  CRIA believes that this issue deserves further attention, and should be a priority of the University community and administration.  Continued communication with Principle Planner Mark Kocent and the Provost’s office is strongly recommended.

2. Role of CRIA in University planning, including:

a. Development of the Postal Lands, which will come under University possession as of January 1, 2007

b. Future of the Penn Ice Rink at the Class of 1923 Arena

CRIA as an organization has had no role in the planning for use of the Postal Lands that the University will assume ownership of in 2007.  Certainly, with a call for developing at least part of that acreage as greenspace for all students’ use, as well as expanding athletic facilities and fields for use by both student athletes and the general student populace, CRIA could have played a major advisory role in this planning. Additionally, since there is talk of the development of Postal Lands having some effect on the future status of the Penn Ice Rink at the Class of 1923 Arena, CRIA should have been included in these discussions.

While it is a general charge of all University Council Committees to keep abreast of University development initiatives, there is no record of specific contact of CRIA by any administrative group, or any task force or consultant group assembled by administration, to have a CRIA representative on said task force or consultant group.  Given the direct impact the use of Postal Lands is to have on matters of concern to CRIA’s charge as a committee, this lack of involvement has been perplexing.

3. Post-season football play:

The subject of the longstanding Ivy League ban on post-season football play was brought to the attention of CRIA.  Ivy League football teams are prohibited from participating in any form of competition beyond the regular season, including the Division I-AA National Tournament.  In recent years this issue has been brought to the forefront by not only students, fans, and alumni, but also by players and coaches across the Ivy League.  To date, the Presidents of the eight Ivy League universities have declined to re-evaluate this rule, so efforts are being made to convince them to revisit this ban, which is exclusive to football and does not apply to any other intercollegiate athletic sports.

This semester the Penn Undergraduate Assembly and the Ivy Council of Student Government have passed proposals recommending to the Presidents of each Ivy League university that they revisit this ban and its purpose.  CRIA supports this recommendation, which will be discussed at the May meeting of the University Council.

Specific Charges: CRIA had four specific charges for this year, including:

1. Evaluating the appropriateness and feasibility of the committee

2. Investigating the committee’s function, utility, and overlaps with other University bodies, as well as obstacles to fulfilling its general charge

3. Updating the report of the 2004-2005 CRIA Committee

4. Monitoring progress of the aforementioned NCAA Review

Specific charges #1 and #2 were addressed in detail in the attached CRIA Committee Self-Evaluation Report that was submitted separately to the University Council.

For charge #3, the 2004-2005 CRIA Final Report spoke to five issues.  Updated information regarding these issues is as follows:

1. Greater integration of recreation/athletics into everyday lives of students. Much of this effort is related to the availability of playable greenspace, which was discussed above.  In addition, CRIA continues to support the building of a multi-purpose indoor athletic and recreational activity facility similar to those found on the campuses of the other Ivy League universities.

2. Adequacy of indoor athletic facilities. As above, CRIA sees this issue as being paramount to maintaining an atmosphere of excellence in athletic and recreational opportunities here at Penn.  As an example, it is ironic that Penn has hosted, for well over 100 years, one of the premier and largest track-and-field events in the world—the Penn Relays—yet has no indoor facility for its own track-and-field team.

3. Improvements to academic support programs for student-athletes. The academic support programs for student-athletes are functioning well.  A long-sought academic mid-semester warning system finally has been put into effect.  Additionally, a position for an assistant to the head of academic support services has been created to maintain and enhance the functioning of this office.

4. Promotion of greater faculty involvement in advising and mentoring of student-athletes. At the present time, about half of the intercollegiate teams have a faculty mentor.  The involvement of the faculty member has varied with each team, but all teams should be encouraged to recruit a faculty mentor.

5. Opportunities for involvement of student-athletes in programs, such as study abroad, that may conflict with athletic schedules. We did not find the ability to study abroad to be a major issue. At the present time, two student-athletes are studying abroad, and several opportunities for doing so exist that do not conflict with individual sports scheduling.

The fourth and final charge, monitoring of the University’s NCAA Review process, was accomplished in large part through the presence of CRIA’s Chairperson, Dr. Bill McCool, as a Subcommittee Chair and member of the Steering Committee on the NCAA Review Task Force, as well as the presence of CRIA member Ann Tiao on the NCAA Steering Committee.  The University’s written self-evaluation report was open to public comment in December 2005, and was subsequently submitted to the NCAA in January 2006.  An NCAA site visit is planned for the end of May 2006, with a final recommendation regarding the University’s status expected this coming summer (2006).

Number of Times Committee Met

The committee met monthly beginning February 2006, shortly after the submission of the NCAA Self-Evaluation Report.

Major Points Addressed by Committee

(See above under “Charges to Committee”)

Recommendations to University Council and/or Community

(See above under “Charges to Committee” and refer to the  CRIA Committee Self-Evaluation Report.) (see below)

Recommendations of Topics to be Addressed the Following Year

(See above under “Charges to Committee” and refer to the CRIA Committee Self-Evaluation Report.)

CRIA Committee Members 2005-2006:

Chair: Bill McCool (Nursing); Faculty: Kathryn Bowles (Nursing), Steven Galetta (Neurology/Med.), Ed Lally (Dental), Bill McCool (Nursing), Michael McGarvey (Neurology), Charles Mooney (Law); Graduate Students: Darrell Oliveira, Ann Tiao; Undergraduate Students: Jack Kent (EAS’06), Zack Rosenblum (COL’06); PPSA: Karlene Burrell-Mcrae (Makuu); Ex Officio: Steve Bilsky (Dir., Recreation & Intercollegiate Athletics), James Gardner (President’s Office), Bill Turner (VPUL).



Committee on Recreation & Intercollegiate Athletics (CRIA)

Self-Evaluation Report

The Committee on Recreation & Intercollegiate Athletics (CRIA) has been a longstanding committee established under the University Council (UC). Its purpose is to “have cognizance over recreation and intramural and intercollegiate athletics and their integration with the educational program of the University, including the planning and provision of adequate facilities for various sports and recreational activities.”

In this academic year (2005-2006), two specific charges were requested of each UC committee that will serve as a form of self-evaluation.  They are as follows:

1. Evaluate the existing general charge of the committee for appropriateness and feasibility of the committee, as well as the constituencies represented in its membership, as defined by the Bylaws of the University Council.

2. Investigate the function of the committee, its utility, competing or complementary overlaps with other bodies in the University, and obstacles to fulfilling the general charge, and make recommendations regarding the future of the committee.

Several working meetings were held to generate the following report.  Input was sought from CRIA members, including ex-officio members, and from additional individuals representing University-wide organizations or groups identified by CRIA as having had previous dealings with the committee or whose current interests are related to recreation, intramurals, or intercollegiate athletics.

The findings and suggestions of CRIA are as follows:

Appropriateness and Feasibility of Committee

The committee members believe that CRIA is not only an appropriate committee, but an important one. However, this belief is tempered by our concern that the committee’s voice, expressed through agenda setting and proposed recommendations, is muted and plays a minimal role in the vision, planning, or daily activities of the University.

We acknowledge the fact that CRIA, like its umbrella organization, the University Council, is an advisory group within the existing University structure, and any recommendations made by CRIA can only serve as suggestions, and not policy. Having said that, there is a feeling amongst CRIA members, specifically those who have worked at the University for a decade or more, that the voices of CRIA received greater acknowledgement in the past by University administration, and that recommendations received greater attention and follow-up study than has occurred over the past few years. The feeling of the committee members is that administration has increasingly relied on the use of advisory boards or task forces tied to specific issues or interest groups for advice on matters pertaining to the running of the University, rather than depending on standing committees such as CRIA.

Examples of this changed approach are:

1. CRIA was gathered for a late spring meeting in 2002 to discuss a soon-to-be-enacted student recreation fee that accompanied the opening of the Pottruck Center at the end of that summer.  The tension that arose with the initiation of this additional fee for recreational activity possibly could have been tempered if an organization with longstanding student representation, such as CRIA, had been involved earlier in the planning for this change in policy.

2. CRIA as an organization has had no role in the planning for use of the “postal lands” that the University will assume ownership of in 2007.  Certainly, with a call for using at least part of that acreage for greenspace for all students, as well as the expansion of athletic facilities and fields for use by both student athletes and the general student populace, CRIA could have played a major advisory role. While it is a general charge of all University Council Committees to keep abreast of University development initiatives, there is no record of specific contact of CRIA by any administrative group, or any task force or consultant group assembled by administration, to have a CRIA representative on said task force or consultant group.  Given the direct impact the use of “postal lands” is to have on matters of concern to CRIA’s charge as a committee, this lack of involvement is perplexing.

Even enthusiasm for recent successes by CRIA seem muted by a feeling that matters of recreation and intercollegiate activities are not a priority for administration, even when they involve academics. For example, CRIA has long called for a centrally-based, automated mid-semester notification of activity directors, including intercollegiate athletic coaches, of students in respective activities who are having academic difficulties.  Thankfully, such a system has finally being enacted this spring. However, it is felt by the committee that there was need for consistent pressure by CRIA over several years before such a system was enacted, and that such a beneficial system for keeping track of student academic progress should have been a greater priority of administration.

One additional example of note regarding the apparent disconnect between CRIA and the decision-making forces at the University is related to playable greenspace in the proximity of student housing, or the lack of it, at Penn.  In annual reports issued over the last few years, CRIA has recommended that the University pay attention to the need for greater amounts of greenspace and playing fields for use by Penn students and employees.  As with all universities, particularly urban ones, the amount of available space for expansion and growth can be quite limited.  In situations such as these, when expansion of facilities is required, greenspace is usually the first site to be converted.  Without subsequent expansion of greenspace, especially playable areas, elsewhere on campus to replace what is lost, there is consistent reduction over time of open land available for outdoor activities. 

CRIA has long recognized the need for greenspace as a part of the total supportive environment for academic learning and personal growth that universities pride themselves on.  As Penn expands, a lack of attention to a subsequent growth in the amount of available and accessible greenspace renders the University a one-dimensional institution.  Not only can this negatively affect the current student body and staff, but also those potential students of the future who will need to be recruited to Penn.  CRIA believes that a lack of maintainable and accessible greenspace will hinder this recruitment process.

Unfortunately, CRIA’s call for more open greenspace has not only been given little attention, but has occurred at the same time as increasing amounts of open space have disappeared from the University’s landscape.  Such areas as Hill Square and the fields surrounding Rodin College House, while still viewable as “open space,” have become less available for recreational activities, especially sporting matches, with ongoing University expansion.  Certainly, development of the postal lands eventually should lead to an expansion in University greenspace, but that region’s accessibility to current student living quarters is questionable, and could lead to under-use. As noted above, CRIA could have played a more supportive role in development talks, but has not been a part of initial discussions regarding plans for the soon-to-be acquired lands.

Committee members believe that involving CRIA in any discussions of greenspace removal or alteration, from the outset of said discussions, would benefit the overall University community.  Simply notifying CRIA that a change is about to occur is not enough.  It would be advantageous to examine the role CRIA could play in other University organizations and committees. For example, the Penn community would likely benefit from a permanent connection between CRIA and Facilities Services.

Committee Function, Utility, Overlap, Obstacles, and Recommendations

CRIA has served multiple functions related to the functioning and well-being of the University, including acting as:

1. A representative voice for the recreational needs of the general student body, including both organized intramural programs and less formal general physical activities

2. A proponent for the recreational benefits of the broader University community (faculty & staff)

3. A standing liaison between the University Department of Athletics and the Administration

4. An advising body with regard to the mission of the University Department of Athletics

The importance of these activities to the greater University is recognized by CRIA members, and strong support for CRIA’s continuing in its currently stated role has been put forth in discussions by its members.

The current utility of CRIA on campus, or the lack thereof, was addressed above. To restate, CRIA could have a much stronger advisory role in the affairs of the University involving recreation and intercollegiate athletics, but has become limited in its function.  The reasons for this are unclear, but there definitely has been a perception by longstanding committee members that CRIA’s influence on the affirmation or alteration of University policy has diminished considerably over the last decade.

As it typical of any large institution such as the University of Pennsylvania, there have been overlaps in the role of CRIA with other committees, not the least of which are:

• Student Athletic Advisory Committee (SAAC)

• Athletics Board of Overseers

• Pottruck Committee.

Certainly, it would be prudent under the current assessment of University Council sub-committees to determine if all of the students’ needs with regard to recreation and athletics are being addressed by these various groups. Likewise, it would be helpful to know if various roles and responsibilities are being duplicated to the point of questioning the purpose of maintaining several groups with similar goals.

It is the belief of the CRIA members that this committee has played an important and unique role in the well-being of the students, faculty, and staff here at Penn, and that this role should be revised or strengthened.  However, it is also the belief of committee members that if change cannot be implemented to improve upon CRIA’s function, then a reorganization of University Council sub-committees that includes CRIA may be in order.

One additional note on overlap of committees needs to be stated. The University of Pennsylvania Board of Trustees (BOT) makes decisions on such matters as the use of recreational activities and the expansion or diminishing of greenspace based in part on the advice of the BOT’s Facilities and Campus Planning Committee.  In addition, matters related to recreation and athletics receive attention and recommendation for action by members of the Advisory Board for the Department of Recreation and Intercollegiate Athletics, which is part of the University’s Board of Overseers network that advises the BOT on specific matters related to University life. Obviously, both of these groups have more direct sway on actions taken by the BOT, and thus wield greater potential influence than CRIA or any other committee of the University Council.  However, neither of these organizations has the degree of diversity in membership that University Council committees have built into their Bylaws, thus making the latter more representative of, and more responsive to, the general university population as a whole.

With regard to obstacles to CRIA’s fulfilling its general charge, we see two major ones that exist:

1. An administrative governing style that has increasingly relied on information gathering and recommendations by specialized task forces or advisory groups.  Standing committees such as CRIA seem to exist more out of tradition than actual perceived need.

2. Lack of knowledge throughout the University community over the role of CRIA and the potential influence it could have on the well-being of the Penn community.

Certainly other obstacles exist, but it is the feeling of the CRIA members that overcoming the two aforementioned barriers to the committee’s success would do much to help fulfill CRIA’s important role for the University.

The CRIA committee’s recommendations for the future are as follows:

1. Maintain CRIA as a standing committee of the UC.

2. Work with administration and the UC to discover methods by which CRIA’s function and voice can be representative of, and helpful to, the University community.  This would include CRIA playing a leadership role in setting agenda items for the Committee, rather than the more recent pattern of CRIA’s agenda being a reaction to requests from administrative groups.

3. Establish ongoing links between CRIA and other University organizations, committees, and task forces whose missions affect recreational and intercollegiate athletics.  Such groups would include the Faculty Senate, the Athletics Board of Overseers, Facilities Services, and the Campus Planning Development Committee, which was established to construct a plan for the University’s use of the postal lands in 2007.

We, the members of CRIA, look forward to continual contribution of the Committee to not only the recreational and intercollegiate athletic activities of the University community, but to the overall well-being of University life. 

Almanac - October 17, 2006, Volume 53, No. 8