ESU Faculty Senate mulling recommendation on athletic training program's future

Next month, a decision should be made on whether to continue Emporia State University's athletic training program.

Athletic training has come under scrutiny for its enrollment numbers. Health, Physical Sciences and Recreation Professor Matt Howe, the program chair, says there are 18 students in what's called the "professional phase" -- those going to clinics daily and providing treatment to the sports teams. Another 21 students are in freshman-level classes. The Kansas Board of Regents wants 10 graduates in the program per year, a little more than double the 4.8 average currently and well above the three graduates the past two years. On top of that, CAATE -- the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education -- now says the program needs a second full-time, tenure-track professor.

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Howe says last year's refurbishment and renaming of the John Baxter Athletic Training Facility was a significant upgrade for technology. What's needed, though, is about double the current space and the second instructor -- or, barring that, some creative scheduling to accommodate more students.

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Teachers College Dean Ken Weaver, who made the initial recommendation to discontinue, says the need for a second faculty member is valid. However, with other programs both meeting Board of Regents enrollment guidelines and short on teachers, those programs need to fill their vacancies first.

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Weaver's priority list with faculty would be school leadership, Health Physical Education and Recreation, special education and psychology. He says the education quality is top-notch, so that is not a concern with athletic training.

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The Faculty Senate plans a vote on a recommendation for President Dr. Michael Shonrock on May 6, but the final decision may not come down until right before Emporia State's graduation May 17.

Should the program be discontinued, current staff would handle the training duties. Current students could finish their classes if they so choose.

The final decision will also directly impact whether Howe receives tenure. If the program is allowed to continue, Howe would receive tenure. If not, he may well be put on a yearly contract.

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