Leadership in Higher Education: For Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance

Article excerpt

A serious dichotomy exists for every person in the fields of health, physical education, recreation, and dance. For several years, there has been unprecedented growth and interest in safe and healthful living, fitness and sport, and leisure lifestyles. At the same time, the amount of financial support has significantly decreased for these programs in schools and in other public agencies of all types. Part of this problem can be attributed to the economy, but perhaps a more important part may be a lack of understanding by the general public regarding the importance, role, and function of various organizations in sustaining the current interest in wellness, sport, and leisure. Strong, effective leadership is a key factor in lessening the dichotomy.

This article briefly discusses the current social environment that cuts across these fields, but it gives particular attention to the environment in higher education for health, physical education, recreation, and dance. Bold leadership will be required to make the necessary changes in the institutional culture related to many of these issues.

While the problems are not new, they seem to be having greater impact upon programs at this time in HPERD. The economy has not produced sufficient state and local tax revenues to support higher education and all public education in relationship to many other competing interests. Every state and local community is faced with the high cost of welfare programs, police and public security, infrastructure deterioration, and other public services. Nonessential services are being reduced or privatized. The entire issue comes down to a determination of what is nonessential. Short-term crises usually take precedence over long-term goals. While this is undoubtedly an oversimplification of the issue, police programs directed at juvenile delinquents get more attention and support than long-term health, fitness, sport, and leisure lifestyle development programs offered through schools and other public agencies. Compared to roads and public welfare problems, state colleges and universities receive less support than ever. Most public institutions of higher education in this country receive approximately one-fourth to one-third of their total budgets from state-appropriated public funds. For several major institutions, the percentage of support is much less. State-supported institutions of higher education are moving rapidly into a category of "state-assisted" institutions. It has become necessary to look to other sources of income such as increased fees, grants and contracts, sponsorships and many forms of philanthropic support.

Almost every administrator is faced with new challenges of keeping pace with new developments, securing adequate budgets, finding qualified personnel, maintaining quality, establishing new priorities, and becoming more accountable. Is it any wonder that in almost any assemblage of administrators in HPERD, pessimism, doom, and gloom run high?

Quite possibly, the best description of the current situation was written by Charles Dickens in A Tale of Two Cities when he wrote, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." In spite of all of these challenges and problems, the future of the fields related to health, physical education, recreation, and dance is indeed very bright. The mood of the country has turned toward more human values with a strong concern for people and quality of life. As mentioned earlier, there has never been greater interest in safe and healthful living, leisure lifestyles, fitness, sports, recreational sports, women in sports and athletics, the cultural arts, and many other similar areas. The best gross estimates available indicate that Americans spend more than $340 billion per year in the leisure, sports, and fitness market. To put this amount in perspective, it is more than the nation spends on the housing industry and more than the United States spends on national defense. …