Alum Keshia Knight Pulliam may have just added $1 million to Spelman’s coffers with her fundraising efforts, but the school is still concerned with how it’s budgeting and spending its money.
Last week, the school announced that it would be cutting the funding for its intercollegiate sports program, instead investing that money in wellness programs. The sports program, Spelman President Beverly Daniel Tatum, told The Root, only benefits 80 students, where the wellness program will reach 2,100. Of the 80 negatively-affected students, 20 have graduated and 20 will graduate in 2013. The sports program for those 80 students was costing $1 million.
“The wellness program is a free resource for students created more than three years ago, where students can meet privately with the wellness coordinator, set up a personal fitness program and take classes,” the website reports.
For many students, participating on a sports team is a big part of the college experience. For others, it’s makes the college experience possible, providing scholarships and other support.
But Spelman is looking at this through a different lens. The school is renovating its decades-old gym to accommodate more students, revamping its physical education program, and reconsidering its cafeteria menus. President Tatum points out the high rates of obesity and hypertension among African Americans in her comments to The Root. The article cites Health and Human Services stats showing that “four out of five African-American women are overweight or obese.”
On the flip side, of course, are the benefits of offering women sporting opportunities. This year, we commemorate the 40th anniversary of Title IX, a set of education amendments signed into law by President Richard Nixon that allowed for a number of gender-equalizing policies. A writer for Wired, Kay Moore, attended the espnW Summit recently, where Title IX was celebrated. Among the things that the amendments allow for are more sports programs for women. (Also included: a written rule forbidding discrimination against young women who are or were pregnant, among other things.) The benefits to girls and women are myriad.
“According to testimony before Congress, for girls who engage in sport, 50% are less likely to suffer depression and breast cancer, 80% are less likely to have a drug problem, and 92% are less likely to have an unwanted pregnancy,” Wired says.
In other words, the government has supported female athletics for four decades and its benefits have been touted. Title IX, and its funding, also became an election issue, with the GOP making it one more proposed cut during an imaginary Romney/Ryan administration.
But Spelman, in a move that addresses the specific problems facing its student body and the black community, has decided that health is the critical issue that its budget must tackle. What better way to spend a ton of cash that to set loose upon American society 2,100 educated black women to tell their mothers, sisters, aunts, friends and children that they need to think about health and wellness on a daily basis? To share the health lessons they learned in college with others?
“This is nothing less than the wholesale re-imagining of the place of fitness in our society,” says Gawker. “What Spelman is doing is acknowledging that fitness is not a competition… It is not too much to ask that every college graduate in America leave school with the knowledge of how to do basic exercises properly, how to design a basic personal fitness plan, and how to avoid eating themselves into an early grave.” Word.
While it would be nice to have both the sports and the wellness program, if you have to choose one, it should be the one that provides the greatest good for the greatest number. In this case, the benefits of Spelman’s program go beyond its gates, touching all those that will come in contact with the empowered, fit and healthy women that pass through its enhanced wellness program.