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Dayton Daily News (Ohio)
Although Wright State University is trying to navigate its way out of a financial crisis, a new report states it would not make sense for the school to eliminate all athletics or move its teams from NCAA's Division I to Division II.
The report was issued by a fact-finder late Monday as part of ongoing contract negotiations between Wright State's faculty union and administration. Issues in negotiations include compensation, benefits and faculty workloads, among other things.
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Wright State "stepping down" from Division I to Division II status has been brought up in recent years as the university has debated how to handle its ongoing budget crisis. Board of trustees chairman Doug Fecher said in May 2017 that such a move was in no way "off the table."
There are "penalties" and additional costs that are associated with either proposal that the fact-finder determined Wright State "cannot afford," according to the report.
Though there was "much discussion" of the proposals during negotiations, the fact-finder's report states that doing so "simply is not productive."
"Division I Athletics, and those of the lower Divisions, still require costs to operate. The total elimination thereof, it is simply not practical or necessary even though the financial circumstances of this University are in much need of recovery," the report states.
Wright State trustees slashed more than $30 million from the school's fiscal year 2018 budget in June 2017 in an attempt to begin correcting years of overspending. Those cuts ended up not being enough, and by the close of FY 2018, Wright State had reduced spending by around $53 million.
In June, trustees approved a FY 2019 budget that predicted another $10 million decline in revenue.
Athletics spending has been a target of faculty criticism. In June 2017, more than 250 WSU faculty signed a letter calling the university's spending on athletics "disgraceful" and "absurd."
With the fact-finder's report now available, the Wright State chapter of the American Association of University Professors is hosting two meetings for members, president Martin Kich has said.
Members will then vote for more than a week on the report, which proposes a sort of compromise contract, Kich has said. If at least 60 percent of the union's membership turns down the fact-finder's proposal, then the union would begin initiating a strike.
The report comes as WSU administration and faculty union have been locked in a sometimes-tense contract negotiation for more than a year. Contract talks initially stalled when former Wright state president David Hopkins resigned in March 2017.
The administration has since offered the union a three-year contract with no raises and reduced health benefits, Kich has said. Kich said via email that the AAUP-WSU would not announce its opinion on the report until Wednesday.
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