Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Monday, October 19, 2009

Rec Sports now part of Student Affairs

Recreational Sports at U-M has moved into the Division of Student Affairs, where leaders believe it will fit well with other services provided to students.

The announcement was made earlier this month to Rec Sports staff by Provost Teresa Sullivan and Vice President for Student Affairs E. Royster Harper, who both say the reporting change represents a good fit for the program that is used predominately by students.

“The Division of Student Affairs already is the home for many units that serve the student community, so they are exceptionally well positioned to serve as the home for Rec Sports,” Sullivan says.

The move comes seven months after the university released a report by the Recreational Sports Task Force that called for development of a master plan to upgrade existing indoor and outdoor facilities, and to explore building new ones to accommodate the needs of students, faculty, staff and families.

The task force, chaired by former Kinesiology Dean Beverly Ulrich, found increased demand for facilities and programs, and concerns about crowded conditions, dated equipment and amenities, and cleanliness in current buildings. Although the IM Building was upgraded in 2003, no new facilities have been built or major renovations done to the existing buildings since 1976.

The department had reported to the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics. In the report, the task force recommended it be part of the provost’s office — primarily for funding purposes — but Harper says the alignment with Student Affairs made sense as they looked at who most uses the facilities and programs. Eighty percent of those using the campus centers and related programs are students.

“The mission and goals of Recreational Sports are really in alignment with the mission of the division,” Harper says. “The very nature of our work in student affairs makes it more complementary.”

Harper notes that the division already manages facilities, services and programs to support students and enhance campus community, and already sees the potential to use such offerings as the Challenge Program that works on team building and organizational development.

“There is a lot of synergy with what we do now,” Harper says. “We have a fabulous outdoor program and the potential for even greater use of it in the area of student leadership and development.”

Rec Sports Director Bill Canning also sees great possibilities under the new structure, as the university continues to emphasize health and wellness for all in the community.

“One of the things we are working on right now is extending MHealthy to students,” he says. “Student Affairs and University Health Service are essential to this, and now we will have this connection with Rec Sports.”

And while much of the discussion in this latest move is about aligning with student programs, Canning says Rec Sports will continue to serve faculty and staff who use the facilities.

“Just as the student unions are for the whole campus, Rec Sports serves the whole campus community,” he says. The reality, however, Canning says, is that the number of faculty and staff using the facilities has declined recently as other fitness options have opened on and off campus.

One reason for the previous reporting structure in Athletics is that Rec Sports uses many of the intercollegiate athletic facilities.

“That isn’t going to change. Athletics in going to continue to support Rec Sports’ needs from the facilities perspective,” says Mike Stevenson, executive associate director of athletics. “That’s a commitment Bill Martin has made.”

When the report was issued in April, leaders cautioned that the current economic climate might not allow the university to implement many changes, but that the recommendations would serve as a good blueprint for future renovation and expansion of recreational services.

“Rec Sports are crucial to the health of our community, therefore, it is a high priority for us to have good facilities to support more active lifestyles of members of the community,” says Phil Hanlon, vice provost for academic and budgetary affairs.

“But, the organizational change doesn’t change the economic situation. Obviously these are challenging economic times but we will work hard to find ways to adequately fund all of our highest priorities,” Hanlon says.

“It’s a hugely popular program,” adds Stevenson, who was a member of the task force. “The fact that it will be housed in a vice presidential level unit ensures that it has the greatest potential for meeting the financial needs, which are considerable.”

Harper says the recent hiring of a development director for the division may mean they can look to donor support.

For more information on the Department of Recreational Sports, go to

To read more about the task force report go to