By Michelle Brutlag Hosick
Division I members delved deeper into restructuring concepts at Friday’s Division I Governance Dialogue, providing feedback that will drive the steering committee guiding the redesign of the division’s structure and processes.
Members had the opportunity to pose questions that, along with a set of steering committee-designed questions, were answered by the entire room through electronic polling. Most on the minds of participants were questions about structure, representation and how a model that provides autonomy in some areas and shared governance in others would truly work.
Student-Athlete Advisory Committee chair Maddie Salamone, a former lacrosse student-athlete at Duke University, reminded the participants why they were there – and asked that they not forget to include student-
athlete voices throughout the structure.
“There has been a lot of rhetoric around this room that student-athlete well-being is the most important concern,” she said. “My challenge to this committee is that the proof is in the pudding, and we are all hungry for some meaningful change. Part of that change must be to include student-athletes at the highest level of governance because we are the ones who are affected by the rules 365 days a year, 24 hours a day.
“How could anyone truly know how student-athletes are being affected by the rules without actually talking to student-athletes? Anybody that is going to create and pass legislation related to student-athletes must have a student-athlete on that body with a voting or advisory role, at every level.”
The majority of members present agreed with her. Sixty-seven percent supported some degree of student-athlete representation on a proposed high-level council that would do the day-to-day work of the division, including debating and adopting rules that impact student-athletes.
Members gave feedback on whether or not presidents should remain in control of the division (65 percent said yes); whether the override provision should remain (73 percent believed it should); and whether conferences should be equally represented in matters of shared governance (76 percent said yes).
Participants did not believe that allowing distinguished individuals from outside athletics to serve on the Board of Directors was a good idea. The steering committee had proposed that outside voices might provide a different perspective, but those who attended the Dialogue believed those with expertise in athletics were the best stewards of the enterprise.
Autonomy in specific areas for the five highest-resourced conferences was also a hot topic, particularly how such a concept would impact shared governance in the remaining areas.
“When we began these discussions, we talked about the high-resourced conferences to have autonomy in some areas. Some consensus has developed around that, with some mechanism for override,” said Bernadette McGlade,
Atlantic-10 Conference commissioner. “But then we start talking about shared governance. If you are giving up autonomy on a certain set of issues, then when you get to shared issues you should have at least equal autonomy.”
The steering committee will take the feedback it received over the two-day Dialogue – including hundreds of emails and other electronic submissions – and study it over the next several weeks. The presidents plan to incorporate the feedback into another possible model for review in the spring.
“We all came together around the core value of student welfare, and we agreed on some of the themes, like needing to restore trust and building a simplified structure that engages everyone,” said steering committee member Rita Cheng, president and Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. “The spirit here really enforces the idea that if there’s a will we can get this done.”