Weeks after a widely circulated petition focused the ire of frustrated athletes and alumni on the athletics administration, President M. Lee Pelton announced the formation of the Athletics Working Group to evaluate the department and form plans to strengthen it.
Pelton said he hopes the appraisal will better prepare Emerson’s athletic program to compete in the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference, a move the college will make in 2013.
“The compass of this study is to take advantage of our membership in the NEWMAC, to review all of our athletic programs, but paying particular attention to intercollegiate sports,” Pelton said.
The Dean of Students, Ronald Ludman, will chair the group. Ludman, who previously oversaw the athletics department between 1982-1996, said he accepted Pelton’s request to become the chair about a week ago.
“I have a general understanding of the concerns raised and I will become more deeply familiar with the issues once the process gets underway,” Ludman said in an email interview.
Ludman said that when the Athletics Department was reorganized in 1996, his responsibilities were transferred to the current vice president of administration and finance.
According to an email sent by Pelton to the student body Wednesday, the group will serve a number of purposes, ranging from developing a philosophical statement, to creating short- and long-term strategies to improve athletics programs.
“What I’ve charged the working group with is to provide a blueprint to strengthen athletics,” Pelton said. “[The athletes] deserve something better, they deserve excellence, and they deserve the support of Emerson.”
Pelton met with the majority of team captains in late March after he and William Gilligan—vice president of information technology, who oversees the athletic department—received a petition to reconsider the position of Athletic Director Kristin Parnell. Kabir Moss, who authored the document, said the only solution to the department’s problems is to remove Parnell.
Moss said he felt the concept of the group was good, but questioned the authority it would be given to effect change.
“In general that’s good,” Moss said. “I think it’s very undefined, as to who gets to actually have input. Once you come to a conclusion, what’s the plan of action going to be?”
Parnell could not be reached for comment.
“My focus is on students and student experience,” said Pelton. “I believe petitions are poor substitutes for dialogue and conversation ... The Working Group is focused on the program, not individuals.”
While members of the group have yet to be chosen, Pelton said it will be comprised of current students, alumni, administrators, and members of departments that intersect with athletics, such as admissions.
Moss said he was nervous that those chosen for the board would not be close enough to the issue to understand it, and said he would love to serve on the group, although he doubted he would be chosen.
“I think at this stage in the game I’m too bias,” Moss said. “My worry is they’re going to go to people before Parnell, before the current administration, and they’ll have a surface level view, and how much will they be able to do? They should talk to people that actually have experience with the situation.”
However, Pelton said he is hopeful for what the group can accomplish.
“My expectation is that they will have completed their task by Feb. 1, that they will have satisfied the charge I have given to them, and they will produce a thoughtful report that will provide a blueprint for success,” he said.