Ltte: On the proposed club sports tiering system

Editor’s Note: The Observer could not fact check the date of the meeting and the results of the vote discussed in the piece.

To the Administrators of Case Western Reserve University Athletics and to the CWRU Student Body,

The CWRU Club Sport Council meeting on the evening of Jan. 23 saw fierce debate over the recommendations for a tiering system in club sports. As members of the clubs that were most vocal in opposition, we are obligated to voice our objections publicly.  We write only as concerned students and club members.  In laying out our reasons, we hope to demonstrate how the tiering system is unnecessary and erroneous in principle and that the recommendations by the student-led tiering committee are flawed in particular.

It was made clear at the meeting on the Jan. 23 that the vote on the tiering system was purely a recommendation; it was further implied that administrators may implement such a system regardless of student reaction.  The ambiguous results of the vote (8 Yes, 6 No, 3 Abstain) are evidence that there is not significant unity in the club sports community on the subject. In the interest of self-determination, we urge that no binding action be taken by CWRU athletics administrators until more agreement is found between the various club sports.

A tiering system is already in place at CWRU. Clubs focusing on athletic activities are divided into three groups; in descending order of university support, they are varsity (such as football), club sports (including our groups) and non-departmental student orgs (such as Judo) that do not receive support from the CWRU Athletics Department.  Implementing an additional tiering system within club sports would apply arbitrary funding and facility benefits to certain club sports while disadvantaging others.  

Higher club sports tiers would give groups first choice of practice spaces and times and allow them to draw from a separate, larger pool of funding.  Currently, groups can request funding from the total club sports budget. In the new system, a low-tier club could only fight for funding from a paltry low-tier pool; the high-tier funding is untouchable.  Alarmingly, tiers also determine the order in which practice spaces can be reserved.  Many low-tier clubs, especially the Martial Arts groups that are highly represented in the low tiers, need specialized particular spaces for barefoot practice or tumbling, but the tiering system could leave that at the mercy of high-tier clubs.  For these reasons, among others, we concur that the idea of tiering club sports is inherently flawed and we advise against its implementation as proposed.

As it stands, six clubs are within one or two points of switching tiers, suggesting that the point divisions are arbitrary even as the privileges of each tier are significantly different. The committee itself admits that “as clubs adjust to the new system, more clear divides should appear, making it easier to set point goals for tiers.” This reinforces the idea that the ability to move between tiers will be incredibly difficult if not impossible. Even if this is later remedied with a more balanced point system, the damage done to the lower-tier clubs could be irreversible, leading to their disbandment. The loss of traditional martial arts clubs would be a particularly damaging blow to cultural diversity in the athletics department and the university, as martial arts are an important cultural aspect of many East Asian cultures.

The student-led tiering committee released an unfair system for determining tier rankings.  In their system, division of clubs into four tiers is based on qualifications that seem short-sighted and biased towards the larger clubs. A significant portion of the tier ranking point system is based on funding: higher-tier clubs get funding from a larger pool, which means that this requirement is unfairly self-reinforcing.  Another requirement for higher tiers is intercollegiate competition, impossible for clubs like Spartan Cheerleading or Kung Fu Club that compete in non-intercollegiate manners (often internationally).

It is clear to us from these and other rules that the tiering committee needs to seriously revise their recommendations if this process is to proceed without unified support from the club sports community.  We appreciate their diligence in preparing the recommendations, but the club sports community has not found consensus on the requirements.

There is disunity among the club sports at CWRU over whether a tiering system should be adopted at all. The decision to adapting a tiering system has until now progressed without input from all of the club sports themselves, being largely implemented by administrators. The vote to recommend the committee’s suggested system failed to win majority support. The tiering system would unfairly remove funding sources from small and growing clubs and threaten clubs with the loss of their vital practice spaces. The committee’s proposed ranking system is unfairly biased towards high-tier clubs especially with regards to funding and competition requirements, and inhibits movement between tiers.

For these reasons, the undersigned call for a significant revisiting of the committee’s ranking proposal, and a reckoning as to whether such a system should be adopted at all.

The following individuals are signed on this letter: Alice Li, Steve Kerby, Sean Wong, Katie Anderson, Rachel Baumler, Jack Dessert, Chrissy Gallishen, Divya Ganesan, Peter Meyerhoffer, Michael Novet, Hieu Pham, Sami Seif, Rintaroh Shima, Shirley Lang, Jacqueline Abraham, Chloe Jen, Kaitlyn Ledford, Adrienne Simmons, Lauren Walters, Macy Prebel, Liam LeBlanc, Zane Braslawsce, Seamus Sullivan and Andrew Riemer.