More Free Therapy | Less Free Football: Case at Ball State

Ball State University faced a dilemma during finals week December 2016. There were a high number of students seeking psychological counseling at the campus due to the pressure of exams. Given the counseling staff being so little, they were unable to aid most the students which sparked a local movement called “More Free Therapy; Less Free Football” in the beginning of the following spring semester. The message was simple, Ball state should give more money to the psychology department for more student counseling by using some funds from the school’s athletic football team. Of course, this message caused controversy on campus. The student who started the movement was placing stickers on campus and selling them to other students who agreed with the message. The university put a stop to that on grounds that the student was using campus materials. This was not the primary issue.32827_pillphoto4p

Some things are presupposed here with this debate. One side believes that the school should care more about student’s mental well-being given that some of their fees go to that institution. The opposition claims that the athletics department should not be responsible to take cuts given that athletics have merits of their own. I want to debate the issue at hand: should we value mental health over entertainment of the students? In addition, why should the athletics be cut? I am aiming to tackle the inconsistent messages between the mission statements of the school and the goals of college sports. In doing so, I hope to present a case that more funding into psychological care at Ball State is more consistent with the university’s mission statement. Foreword, I have no qualms with either department. They both have importance to the campus community and culture.

When I have heard the debates on campus, there was never be a right understanding of what people are really talking about. On one hand, the “pro-therapy” side demands more funding allocated to the counseling center for mental health. The “Pro-athletics” side of the argument begs the question, “Why does the money have to come from us?” which I found to be an issue. People are having this debate but arguing two separate questions. In order to make sense of this issue, people need to be on the same page. For this reason, I am planning on discussing the compatibility each department has towards the University’s mission statement.

First and more most, according to Ball State’s Mission Statement, the goal of the university aims to promote educational values in the students and help those students have the judgments to assess complex actions in life. Ball State’s primary goals are more academic based for the students than anything else. What does this mean for college sports?

There are three claims to be talked about here. Is the role of college sports incompatible with the university’s mission statement? Is the role of the counseling center more compatible with the mission statement? And if so, is that grounds to justify allocating funding differently? There are claims against college sports but it takes looks from both sides to make a judgment.

Claims against college athletics often summarize that it is not compatible with most university’s messages. While a university aims to promote educational growth, sports seems to be at ends with that. As Robert Simon, author of Fair Play- The Ethics of Sport claims, “There seems to be a basic contradiction between the aims of education and the aims of athletics; thus the time students spend on athletic fields is time spent away from their studies.” (Fair Play- The Ethics of Sport. 163) In following, sports incompatibility comes from the idea that there is no academic learning within it. Now that is a strong claim but there is evidence to support that. Athletics are commercialized. Athletics are costly due to entertainment and fees, which also come from student tuition.

There are good merits of college sports too. It directly reaches out to the community, tying the university to its local audiences. People claim that there is some educational values that comes from college sports relating to physical training much like how a dancer trains to learn moves or how a musician practices “Thus, like student athletes, student musicians practice for many hours, often more than are required for them, and perform in events that are often college sponsored and at which audience members may be charged an admission fee.” (Simon. 173) So, there is some skills and abilities learned through sports that are like the skills of art performers such as coordination and dedication. People claim that this makes college athletics compatible with the university.

Given both sides of sports, there are cases to allow for one to take sides on the subject. Though the initial movement of “More Free Therapy | Less Free Football” was short, students had reason to discuss the subject later. “Pro-therapy” sides claim that a psychology counseling center fits within the University’s mission statement for promoting educational growth. While claiming to be more compatible, they follow that the counseling center deserves more student workers to handle the students’ psychological demands. The counseling center is argued to be more compatible than athletics because since it is student ran, it would give more students on-campus training for that field; an addition to the department. With more counselors, they can address more students’ needs and quicker. If the student has a better psychological health, they will perform better at the university. Both of these claims can be said to be directly compatible with the University’s mission. Promoting student learning while promoting the student’s capability to learn as well.

The argument against the “Pro-therapy” side is that since it is a demand based center, having clients from the University primarily, that there would be some wasted money that could have then been better allocated. This argument is not strong though since the amount of money the athletics department loses sometimes too. Where the financial losses from athletics are quite substantial, far more than what a psychology department could lose.

So, if psychology counseling is more compatible with the University than what athletics are. Can the reasons provided justify allocating finances different for the university? While the athletics can provide more connection to the community while raising some of its own money, it has faults in that it could lose a lot of money and it is not compatible with the university’s mission. Counseling is compatible with the university’s mission but it only affects primarily the students on campus and an arguably smaller audience. Where do we go from here? I propose that we should allocate funds differently, just enough to provide a better service to the students by hiring more counselors and offering more positions to students but not to allocate enough to the point that it severely damages the athletic departments. The positive social and entertainment aspects of a university is just as important as the community health aspect of the university, they are interdependent.

To conclude, I believe that there is too much funding in athletics given that they are incompatible with the University’s mission statement in most ways. Psychological counseling could promote student growth and that can justify grounds to allocate some money differently. We should provide enough to ensure a counseling center prepared to meet the student’s needs as well as making sure the athletics are capable to strive. We are not asking for a complete reworking of the University’s funding towards college athletics but at the same time, the needs of the students should be met. We cannot value revenue over the well-being of the students.


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