April 29, 2014 04:11 PM
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Author and historian Shane Bernard, Ph.D., weighs in on UL Lafayette's money troubles in this letter to the editor, and begs the question: If the university is so cash strapped, then why is it forking over more than $100 million for athletic facility upgrades?

Dear Editor:

I understand that UL Lafayette is spending $115 million to expand its athletic facilities to include a cardio mezzanine, viewing areas for pro scouts, luxury VIP suites, and separate video editing centers for its football and basketball teams, among other amenities.

 
Shane K. Bernard  

As a UL alumnus I want to ask two questions that some will no doubt find impertinent:  Do we need this, especially when UL's academic budgets are already cut to the bone?  And, if this funding is available why is UL spending it on athletics and not academics since, after all, the purpose of a university is to educate?

Some might respond, "Athletics makes money for the university."  But is this true?  According to a 2013 USA Today report based on findings by the American Institutes for Research, "fewer than one in eight [i.e., less than 13 percent] of the 202 Division I schools [the division to which UL belongs] . . . generated more money than they spent in any given year between 2005 and 2010 [the studied time frame]"  USA Today thus observes, "Nearly every university loses money on sports."

I am motivated to ask these questions because twice in the past few months I have been approached for donations by academic entities at UL that cannot afford to finish or repair the buildings they occupy.  I am also motivated because I am concerned that UL - like so many universities, especially in the South - is at risk of devolving from a university with an athletics department to an athletics department with a university.

Shane K. Bernard
New Iberia

[Editor's note: Read more on this issue here.]

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