Letter to the Chancellor

This letter to Chancellor Mone was written by Nathan Sass, Class of 1988 and reposted here with the author’s permission.
Chancellor Mone:
I write to you in regards to the recent events in the Athletic Department.
As a second generation alumnus of UWM, I continue to be concerned about the University’s approach to athletics, and it’s impacts on the University as a whole.
As Chancellor, your role is to ensure the continued success and growth of the University in all areas.  This includes academics, research, enrollment and yes, also athletics.
UWM is an institution with full time undergraduate enrollment in excess of 23,000 per the National Center for Education Statistics.  This enrollment places UWM in some very impressive company, and on fact, it is larger than the following:
·           The University of Arkansas
·           Oklahoma – 2016 Final Four Participant
·           Oklahoma State
·           Syracuse University – 2016 Final Four Participant
·           Mississippi
·           Kansas State
·           Nebraska
·           Clemson
·           DePaul
·           Villanova (half the enrollment of UWM) – 2016 National Champions
UWM is very close to the size of the following schools as well:
·         Auburn
·         University of Pennsylvania (Penn)
·         University of Oregon – 2016 Elite 8 Participant
·         University of Connecticut (UConn) – 2016 Women’s National Champion
·         Oregon State
·         Kansas – 2016 Final Four Participant
·         Kentucky – 2015 National Champion
·         University of North Carolina – 2016 Final Four – Runner Up
These lists all have a few things in common.  Specifically, they are all largely household names nationally, generate a great deal of donations (athletic AND academic), have stiff competition for enrollment, and are considered by the general public to be “good schools” that they would be proud to send their children to.
One other thing each of these schools also has in common is a dedicated commitment to high level Division 1 athletics.  Most of these programs compete for national championships on a regular basis, and some do in multiple sports.
Why does this matter to an institute of higher learning?
Because this commitment to excellence generates an enthusiasm among the student body that translates into lifelong commitments to their school.  Alums become a marketing arm of the school, donate to academic programs, and improve the educational capabilities of the school itself.
Their children attend these school, following in the footsteps of their parents.  Families become deeply tied to these school and are committed the success and growth of the entire university, not just the athletic programs.
Finally, there is the matter of economics for these institutions.  Strong athletic programs do require significant investments, but not all of those funds are from the school itself.  Much of the money that funds these programs comes from alumni and fans.  The school generates revenues for the sale of branded merchandise, which becomes advertising that the public pays the school to do.
Increased competition for enrollment improves the quality of the student body, which translates into an alumni base filled with successful people in all areas of life with the means to give back to the school they love.
In short, athletics is not merely a distraction to a University.  It is not just a “nice to have” element of college life.
Far from those things, athletics becomes the glue that binds a student body and alumni network.  It becomes the thing that all members of this community can unite in support of, regardless of any differences in politics, profession, or any other thing that divides.  It is the essence of what a University exists to do…bringing together very different people in support of a common, shared love.
As a proud alum, I ask…no, I beg you to understand this essential dynamic.
What has transpired over the last 10 years at UWM around athletics is shameful, and frankly embarrassing.  UWM is capable of so much more on the field and on the court.  There are many alums like me ready to give back to the school that set them on the path to success.  But to date, no one in the administration has made a strong public commitment to excellence to generate that enthusiasm.
Please be the one who changes this, and UWM, forever.  Set a new standard, and push UWM to strive to reach the level of the schools mentioned above.
I understand that this goal is lofty, but unless the bar is set high, you will not reach your greatest potential.  Is that not what we tell our children, and what we expect of our athletic teams?  Lofty goals and pursuit of excellence?
It will take time, resources, and commitment at every level, to reach these goals, but it can be done.  Let us not forget that not so long ago, Marquette University was also a member of the Horizon league.  They wanted better, and look where they are today.
I would like to close with an anecdotal story.  My daughter is 17 and a senior in high school.  She is a very high academic performer, and her interest in athletics is limited to the swim team she was a part of in high school.  When discussing options for college with her, I mentioned UWM.
Her response was telling, and honestly made me sad.
Her reply, literally, was “No way, Dad. I want to go to a D1 school with a big sports program.”
Not only did she dismiss UWM as an option outright, but she viewed UWM as not even a D1 school and a lesser school than others.
UWM was never even on her radar.  UWM lost out on a high performer academically with a bright future ahead of her because it’s athletics program was subpar.
And I reiterate, my daughter is not even a sports fan.
How many times a day or a year does this same thing occur with thousands of potential students choosing their post high school destination?
This is unacceptable to me, and to many, many alums.
Is it acceptable to you, and to UWM?
Nathan Sass
UWM Class of 1998 – Lubar School of Business – BBA Management Information Systems

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