Students Protest Closing ESS Department


Kelly Jones

In a decision made to offset current budget cuts, UC Santa Barbara will be eliminating the Exercise and Sports Studies department by August 2010, which will end the ESS minors, classes, and all internships created by the department.

What students are fighting for now is to save the ESS classes. According to Erica Stenz, a fourth year ESS student, some students are also fighting for the opportunity for sophomores and juniors who have started minors to complete the necessary courses.

“We found out the vote for terminating the minor was held in secret,” Stenz said. “We want to show [through protest] that it’s not alright for students not to be a part of this: you [the university] have to tell us.”

While it may be too late to save the part of the department that offers minors, students can still fight to save health and exercise classes. An estimated 5,000 students enroll in ESS classes each year. A group of students, including Stenz, has organized in order to protest the cuts and try to save the classes for all students, even if they cannot keep the minors.

These students have teamed up with Healthy Eating and Living interns (HEAL), Associated Students, Campus Democrats, the Health Professions Association, the Recreation Center and the Communications 175 university course to organize rallies and petitions, fighting for their cause. “Being Planned” is an exercise-a-thon scheduled for November 20 that will bring ESS program alumni to campus to run activities in health and fitness, demonstrating what the school will lose without the ESS department.

“This will have a huge impact on Student Health,” said Adrienne Hancik, a HEAL intern. “It will become Student Health’s responsibility to cover topics, such as substance abuse and nutrition, and spread this information to the UCSB population. That’s our job as interns, but you can’t do that for a mass amount of people.”

Currently the school plans to end the ESS minor program in August 2010, meaning that those who have started work on a minor will be unable to finish the program. Approximately 1,200 students begin work on an ESS minor annually, and some come to UCSB specifically to work on an ESS minor, which is the only program of its kind in the UC system.

There are now students who will not be able to complete their minors. Professor Art Gilbert, the advisor for Exercise and Health Science, understands this concern and wants to make sure that students do not lose out on their education. “What I am pushing for is to extend the program for at least a year, if not two, to give those people who have already committed to doing this a chance to get through,” Gilbert said. “There are juniors who have now spent two years doing this program who are going to get the rug pulled out from under them.”

In addition to losing the ESS minor program, all internships cultivated by the department will also be lost. The ESS department presently offers positions with professional sports teams, such as the Los Angeles Lakers and the San Francisco Giants, as well as in the community at local schools and businesses. According to Gilbert, what happens at the university affects the town and the university is pulling support from the community in order to save the ESS program.

“The exercise and sports minors are mainly about taking care of yourself and the people around you; it’s about giving back to your community,” Gilbert said, “and that’s being taken away.”