Faculty Senate voiced opposition to Sook Center, though fundraising efforts for the facility have surpassed an original goal of $5.5 million as of February.

As debate continues to surround discussions about a proposed center exclusively serving student athletes, Ohio University Faculty Senate has taken an official stand on the matter.

In a May 2 general body meeting, the senate passed a resolution calling on the university to “abandon” its efforts to construct the Perry and Sandy Sook Academic Center, adding that if it does not, the senate will urge the Board of Trustees to withhold its approval of the project.

“Our objections to this project stem more from academic reasons, notably our opposition to the practice of segregating athletes from the student population,” Faculty Senate Chair Joe McLaughlin said in an email. “However, it also raises serious issues about the fundraising and capital spending priorities of the university's administration and the faculty's role in deliberations about those priorities.”

Although fundraising efforts for the Sook Center have already surpassed an original $5.5 million goal, according to a previous Post report, the facility has not yet been officially approved for construction by the Board of Trustees. University administration will seek approval for the project during the June 23 and 24 Board of Trustees meetings.

Robert Colvin, a faculty athletics representative, did not respond to a request for comment as of press time.

The Sooks, both OU alumni, donated $2.25 million for the “state of the art” academic center, which was announced in 2014 and has accumulated at least 400 donors and $5.66 million as of February, according to a previous Post report.

It isn’t the first time, however, Faculty Senate has voiced its opposition to policies that separate student-athletes and other traditional students.

In November 2014, the senate passed a resolution calling upon university administration to “strive to integrate the academic support, study space and recreational facilities for student-athletes with those for other OHIO students,” citing the need to “align private giving for academic facilities with OHIO’s academic needs.”

The November resolution also drew on the senate’s previous endorsement of the Coalition on Intercollegiate Athletics principles, which include a rejection of “policies that isolate athletes from the general student body,”

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McLaughlin said during the months between resolutions, there was “no overture” on the part of OU’s president’s office, Division of University Advancement or Intercollegiate Athletics to talk about the senate’s opposition.

“We have arrived at a situation in which athletes are no longer allowed to be student athletes … facilities like this are band-aid approaches that treat the symptom and not the disease, i.e. the fact that our athletic program places unreasonable demands upon athletes,” McLaughlin said in an email. “If we really cared about the academic welfare of student athletes, we would look to the more fundamental problems.”

@lauren__fisher

lf966614@ohio.edu

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