Athletics an important partner in boosting enrollment; Indigenous Peoples Day, Free Speech Week provide important lessons

On two occasions recently, I’ve had the pleasure of hearing Athletic Director Duey Naatz give a presentation on the relationship between athletics and enrollment at UW-Stout. I’d like to relay some of that information here.

 The first important fact is that athletes at a Division III school like UW-Stout receive no special scholarship or admissions consideration. They are students first and athletes second.

Another important fact is that the opportunity to participate in a sport is among the top factors that these students consider when deciding which institution to attend.

These athletes also excel in the classroom. In 2018-19, 69% of the 457 student athletes had a grade-point-average of 3.0 or better and 11% had a perfect 4.0. The combined student athlete GPA of 3.252 exceeded the general student body GPA of 3.128 for the ninth consecutive school year.

By the way, UW-Stout had the top overall GPA in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

Another important statistic is that student athletes in 2018 had a 94.6% graduation rate, which exceeded the WIAC average and the UW-Stout general student body average by a wide margin. This is one of the reasons why increasing our student athlete enrollment is a good strategy for increasing overall enrollment levels at UW-Stout.

Naatz reported that this fall there were 75 more first-year student athletes enrolled at UW-Stout than a year ago, and the athletic department hopes to keep adding to rosters wherever possible. The additional 75 athletes mean an increase of $748,575 in tuition revenue, he said, with an additional athletic department cost of $260,100.

We are not alone in our desire to grow our student athlete rosters, by the way. UW-Eau Claire just announced plans to add three sports to bring in additional student athletes. I believe our plan to grow rosters of existing teams is a better alternative.

I want to thank Athletic Director Naatz, Associate Athletic Director Erin Sullivan and the tremendous coaches and staff in Johnson Fieldhouse for working hard to bring in these gifted student athletes. Go Blue Devils!

Blanket Exercise Honoring Indigenous Peoples Day

My wife, Audrey, and I felt privileged to participate in a “blanket exercise” on Indigenous Peoples Day this Monday. The event was held at First Congregational United Church of Christ in Menomonie and was well attended, with about 40 people from the community, including a contingent from UW-Stout.

In the exercise, the blankets represented North America and the participants were “members” of Native American tribes. As participants “died” from disease, warfare, or forced removal, they stepped off the blankets, and it quickly became clear how devasting European settlement had been to the tribes.

Coupled with historical information and stories from Native American participants, it was a moving and thought-provoking opportunity to consider the meaning of Indigenous Peoples Day.

Free Speech Week events intended to provoke civil debate

Every year our Center for the Study of Institutions and Innovation does a great job of scheduling speakers and panels that examine many of the issues surrounding free speech, not just on campuses but in society in general.

This year is no different. The center and its director, Professor Tim Shiell, have a full slate of activities that might make some people uncomfortable, but that is the point: to provoke civil debate about some of the very important issues of the day. For example, I’m moderating a panel from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 22, in Ballroom A of the Memorial Student Center on how universities should respond to hate speech.

Interim Provost Glendali Rodriguez is moderating a panel that includes John McAdams, a Marquette University political science professor who won a high-profile freedom of speech case before the state Supreme Court. That panel begins at 4 p.m. Monday in the Cedar/Maple Room.

I encourage everyone to attend as many panels and speakers as possible. Bringing this variety of perspectives to campus is a great asset for our students, faculty, staff and the public. The schedule is available here. A news release on the events is available here.

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