Esports: ‘Improving the UWEC brand’

Student Senate approves bill to fund esports program using segregated fees

More stories from Taylor Hagmann


Photo by Samantha Farley

From the archives: Student Senate last spring

Editor’s note: Senators Joel Meier and Sophia Spittlemeister are part of the Spectator business staff.

The Student Senate has approved a range of $18,000 to $24,000 to be spent on an esports program,  Anna Ziebell, the Student Senate vice president, said in an email. The funds will be used in conjunction with a 50 percent discount from Dell to purchase computers and other necessary equipment.

Approved on Monday, Sept. 16, the Information Technology Committee was given permission to use student segregated fees to assist with the purchase of 10 computer systems and will become the second UW-System school to have an esports program, Ziebell said.

According to the bill’s proposal, one goal the multiplayer video game systems has is to draw incoming students to the campus.

“An esports program not only gives colleges a bona fide branding opportunity, but it also gives students a reason to choose a specific college,” the proposal states. It goes on to discuss its “potential for boosting enrollment” even further, since esports are not very common on campuses yet.

Experts, including some researchers from the University of California-Irvine, also hope that incorporating esports onto a campus could decrease racial and gender gaps in STEM programs, according to the proposal.

Joe Murphy, a third year integrated science student and student senator who brought the proposal to the senate, said in an email he has been working in collaboration with Dell, the Student Senate and Recreation to bring esports to the UW-Eau Claire campus.

“We’d be able to offer Recreation Teams for different games like League of Legends or Overwatch, kind of like how we can have volleyball teams,” Murphy said.

Although according to the proposal, esports can fit into many different categories depending on how a school will utilize the program, at UW-Eau Claire they will be part of Recreation, not Athletics, Murphy said.

Esports for this campus would be more for fun than for competition, Murphy said, and students will be able to check out the room so they can get some time playing.

Student Senate President Charlie Johnson said in an email that now is a great time to get involved in esports.

“When Joe brought this proposal to my attention, I became excited about the possibility of bringing this to our campus,” Johnson said. “I know the sheer rate at which esports is growing … the sky is the limit for where it can go.”

The proposal had several reasons why UW-Eau Claire should get involved with esports now, including: “Building a sense of community with non-traditional participants,” improving the UW-Eau Claire brand, and adding potential scholarships.

“I cannot speak on behalf of the Student Senate,” Lauren Becker, a third-year environmental geography major and current director of the Student Office of Sustainability said in an email. “However I can say that personally I feel this is a tremendous opportunity for collaboration between our Information and Technology Commission & UWEC Recreations.”

One of the concerns that Student Senate addressed on Monday was the cost associated with incorporating esports at UW-Eau Claire.

“It’s important that when making decisions regarding student dollars, we as student representatives look at the whole picture and make a point to gather feedback from our fellow students,” Becker said.

Ziebell said the cost is well within the budget that the ITC has to work with. The money allocated will purchase five computers and their corresponding paraphernalia and with the 50 percent discount Dell is offering, they will donate another five. 

“All that’s happened so far is Senate has approved the funding to buy the machines,” Joe Murphy, a third-year integrated science major said in an email. More discussion is to come.

A temporary esports center will be set up in the basement of the Hilltop Recreation Center, but the proposal states that a Hilltop Lookout Space is being considered for long term.

Hagmann can be reached at [email protected].