AMHERST, Mass. – Rebecca Spencer, a psychology professor at the University of Massachusetts and a former student-athlete, has been named the campus’s faculty athletic representative to the National Collegiate Athletic Association. Spencer will report directly to Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy and serve as a key advisor on intercollegiate athletics. The faculty athletic representative is also a member of the Faculty Senate’s Athletic Council.
Subbaswamy says Spencer will be a valued and well-informed advisor on athletic matters. “She was selected because she is a highly respected academic with a deep interest in the welfare of student-athletes and in Title IX,” Subbaswamy says. “She was a Division III student-athlete herself. She is thoughtful about the issues facing intercollegiate athletics in general and UMass Athletics in particular and respectful of the variety of perspectives on campus about these issues.”
The chancellor notes that Spencer has been a member and chair of the Faculty Senate’s Athletic Council, serving on its equity and compliance subcommittee and academics subcommittee.
Spencer was chosen from a group of five finalists for the position, each of whom was interviewed by the chancellor, Glenn M. Wong, who has served as faculty athletic representative for the past 20 years, and Susan Pearson, associate chancellor and advisor to the chancellor.
Spencer says she is looking forward to serving in this new position. She says she was a middle-distance runner as a student at Hope College in Michigan and has been a marathoner more recently. “So in some ways, I am still a scholar-athlete,” Spencer says. “But my interests as a woman and mother of two sports-loving girls, are very much in the area of diversity issues around athletics.”
There are several key areas where Spencer says she can play an important role on campus. “I’m hoping to improve communication and support from faculty to student-athletes and student-athletes to faculty,” she says. “At the moment, I believe many student-athletes think the faculty don’t support them because they over-generalize from the FBS-football conversations that have gone on at the Faculty Senate level. Likewise, faculty members may stereotype student-athletes, over-generalizing from experiences they've had with a student-athlete in the past. So I hope to improve communication and support in both directions.”
“I am very pleased that Rebecca has been appointed as our next faculty athletic representative,” says John McCutcheon, director of athletics. “She has been an outstanding member of the Athletic Council and I am sure that she will do equally as well in this new role. All of us in the Athletic Department look forward to working with her.”
Wong, the outgoing faculty athletic representative, agrees that Spencer is a good fit for the job. “She is very knowledgeable, understands intercollegiate athletics and will represent the university well,” Wong says. “I congratulate Chancellor Subbaswamy and the university for an excellent choice.”
According to the NCAA, the role of the faculty athletic representative is to ensure the academic integrity of the athletics program, ensure institutional control of the athletics program and be directly involved in decisions that affect the fiscal viability of the program.