Varsity Sports To Be Cut After CPW, Before May

As administrators of MIT’s athletic department continue to deliberate on which of MIT’s 41 varsity sports will be cut, student athletes have little to do but wait for the decision, which is expected before the month’s end.

Equally unsure of their fate are admitted students, who come to Campus Preview Weekend without knowing if their sport will still exist if they enroll in the fall.

No significant changes are planned for the athletics fair Friday afternoon, held annually during CPW.

A decision on which sports to cut will be made by the end of the month, just before the May 1 deadline for admitted students to decide whether they will enroll. “MIT understands the timeliness of the decisions, and we intend to be respectful of that,” said Julie Soriero, head of MIT’s athletics department.

Soriero and other Department of Athletics, Physical Education, and Recreation administrators continue to weigh a multitude of criteria when determining which sports to cut: how interested are students in the team? What resources are required to manage it? What are its expenses? Does it comply with the federal Title IX law? Is the coaching high-quality?

A team’s performance, however, will not have a big impact on the decision. “Performance may be a strong measure on the Division I level,” said Soriero. “It doesn’t have a place at the Division III level.”

DAPER has been told to cut its spending by $1.46 million over three years, including $485k for fiscal year 2010. This number represents a 5% cut in DAPER’s total expenditures of $9.7 million, which is calculated by subtracting salaries of faculty members of DAPER (such as some coaches) from its overall budget.

This cut is consistent with cuts throughout all of the Division of Student Life, said Chris Colombo, Dean for Student Life. Colombo has asked each area within DSL, such as DAPER and Housing and Residential Life, to cut 5% of their total expenditures, minus faculty salaries. Housing and Residential Life contains no faculty.

Colombo defended the decision to cut each of the areas under DSL by noting it was the fairest option. “Every unit, across the board in DSL, supports students.” Adjusting how much each cuts “would be like asking the engineering school to cut more than the school of science.”

According to Colombo, DSL, along with other departments at the Institute, has been asked to reduce its expenses by 5% in FY 2010. DSL’s reduction totals to $2 million for the upcoming fiscal year, 5% of their operating expenses of $40 million. The department’s overall budget is $97 million, which includes additional expenses such as campus dining contracts, residential debt service, and faculty compensation.

Students also provided additional input to DAPER this week. The Student Athletics Advisory Committee co-chairs Julie C. Andren ’10 and Catherine Melnikow ’10 met with members of most of the varsity teams over the last few weeks to discuss changes the teams could make to reduce spending. “We’ve condensed input from lots of teams into eight big ideas,” said Andren. The report was presented to Soriero earlier this week, who said she “will take it under consideration.”

As notification of decision to cut varsity sports has been spreading throughout the community, it has drawn numerous concerns from alumni and parents. The natural response from alumni has been “what can be done to save a sport?”

According to Soriero, a significant contribution, in particular an endowment, would help reinstate a sport in the future if a sport happened to be cut. “We don’t want to be stuck in a similar position in a few years.” This means that short-term alumni donations meant to stave off economic hardship might not be of much use.

The cuts to DAPER have not fallen entirely on varsity athletics. So far this year, DAPER has already frozen capital expenditures, decreased some off-campus physical education classes, laid off part-time staff, and reduced overtime. DAPER does not plan to lay off full-time personnel aside from those involved in varsity sports, Soriero said.

After this year, varsity sports will not be cut further: The cuts are a one-time solution meant to make it easier for MIT to focus on the sports that will continue.

Kidnapper Returns Tim the Beaver

MIT’s mascot has returned. The suit of Tim the Beaver, which was taken during Athletics Weekend last Saturday by a group of students upset with the impending cuts to varsity sports, was returned on Tuesday evening. The suit was found in a duffel bag by a DAPER staff member, who then contacted the MIT Police, said director of the Campus Activities Complex Phil Walsh. The police returned the beaver suit to CAC on Wednesday morning. The suit was returned in good condition, said Walsh.

Walsh also said that no student group had reserved Tim during the time that he was taken, and it was back in time for the activities during CPW.

“He’s an important part of our landscape,” said Walsh. “We are just pleased he was returned before CPW.”