Save Bridgewater Equestrian
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Bridgewater College is trying to sell the equestrian center and downsize the program to a team of 8-12 elite level female riders making up a single NCEA team.
The school has been engaged in a Strategic Resource Allocation Process since January. Recommendations were released to faculty and students on the last day of fall break, Tuesday Oct. 6. Everyone at the BCEC - including staff - was blindsided by the scope of the suggestion to sell the equestrian center and downsize the program to a fraction of its current size. If the recommendations are approved by the board on November 6, the BCEC will be sold, our horses will be rehomed, and only a few female riders who are capable of competing at the highest level will be able to ride at Bridgewater College.
On Tuesday Oct 12, students and faculty attended separate town hall events with administration and raised numerous questions.
Screenshots of the relevant sections of the SRA recommendations document can be found here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1ZISw_JYHNmSrDcX74UirAcnph_GBLfVHrePcKAYDGyI/edit?usp=sharing
The students' statement and list of questions can be viewed here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1-D4OVdHkVFDXc5JYads1eUz2gVYIllM7DHGupiWnJAo/edit?usp=sharing
A recording of the town hall can be found here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1ss5EIS9xgfWmk0ItesqvFjbY5jtoHPGD/view?usp=sharing
What Are We Asking For?
First and foremost, we ask that the Board of Trustees reject the SRA recommendations to sell the BCEC and downsize the program.
Second, because we understand that, for financial reasons, changes to the program may still be needed, we ask for a revised review process in which representatives of the equestrian program are fully involved in determining those changes.
As part of this revised process, we are asking for the college as a whole to truly commit to the collaborative and transparent process promised in the SRA document. Full transparency with all stakeholders - including faculty, students, parents, donors, alumni, and community members - before decisions are made at the Board level is imperative so that all parties can fully understand the reasoning and implications of those final decisions.
Why Are We Asking?
The SRA documents and administration response have overall failed to provide concrete reasons as to why the BCEC needs to be sold and why the equestrian program needs to be downsized so dramatically. The proposal to sell the BCEC and decimate the equestrian program appears to be the result of a failure to include any representative of the equestrian program in this SRA process or to solicit their informed opinions about options other than the sale. The failure to even warn staff about the scope of the recommendations was in direct contradiction with the standards of transparency and inclusion that were advertised to be the hallmark of the process. Instead, the process thus far has disregarded the value of the equestrian community to the college and failed to provide an avenue through which clear and well-informed decisions can be made.
While the issues brought up in the SRA report cannot be ignored, the successes of the program cannot be ignored either. The scope and quality of the equestrian program sets Bridgewater apart from other colleges in the region. In fact, the quality of the program is the only reason that many students consider attending Bridgewater at all. The IHSA and IDA teams have each had national champions, and the eventing and open show teams continue to attract and retain students to Bridgewater College. The ability to board a horse and take lessons without being on a team is vital to the college experience for many of us who do not have the ability or desire to balance schoolwork with competitive riding.
Our IHSA and IDA rosters are strong this year, especially in the lower-level divisions, which would be rendered obsolete with a switch to NCEA format. The boarder barn is full, even during a pandemic, and lessons continue to attract new students every single year.
The SRA recommendations appear to consider the sale of the BCEC to be an easy solution to bring in revenue in the short-term and realize a significant portion of the needed non-academic savings. However, we believe that, with carefully considered changes, the BCEC and equestrian program could be an earning asset for the College, a possibility that would be completely erased by the hasty decision to sell.
The SRA project’s recommendations regarding the BCEC and the equestrian program were neither explained fully, nor put forth with sufficient time to allow for other options to be explored fully. Because there has not been an opportunity to discuss alternate options or include the opinions of those who know the program best, it is impossible for the Board of Trustees to make a fully-informed decision on November 6.
Instead, it only makes sense that the current recommendations are rejected so that a new process can begin that includes representatives from the program. The revised process would honor the college’s commitment to transparency and inclusion, while adding needed expertise to develop well-thought-out options so the Board of Trustees can make a fully-informed decision.
What Can I Do?
If you've already signed your name and shared this petition with your friends and are still looking for more to do, the Equestrian Club will be sharing impact statements from students, faculty, alumni, and community members on social media in order to demonstrate, both to those in the College who are not familiar with the program and to the Board of Trustees, how deeply Bridgewater Equestrian has impacted our community.
Submit yours by emailing it to email@example.com. Please put “Impact Statement” in the subject line, include any pictures you’d like to share, and indicate if you would prefer to remain anonymous.
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