Thursday, December 1, 2022

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Trustees agree to use $55-65K for competitive video gaming program

Alamance Community College’s trustees have voted unanimously to approve a request by ACC’s administration to create a competitive video gaming program at the community college.

ACC officials said Monday night creating a competitive gaming program – which they termed “e-sports” – would help draw new students to attend ACC.

“We hope that it evolves into a curriculum here as an advanced [Information Technology program],” ACC trustee Pete Glidewell said Monday night in presenting the request from the board’s budget and finance committee. Glidewell said that, based on his research, more than 50 percent of people between the ages of 18 and 49 years old participate in competitive video gaming.

The trustees’ budget and finance committee had recommended approval of the administration’s request to use between $55,000 and $65,000, from ACC’s institutional fund balance (“rainy-day” savings) generated by commissions on bookstore sales, to purchase 15 special gaming computers for the competitive video gaming program.

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“Basically, this is more of [an] athletic endeavor than an academic endeavor at this point,” said trustee Bill Gomory, who serves on the budget and finance committee with Glidewell and trustee Carl Steinbicker. “It’s meant to be an activity for enjoyment,” Gomory acknowledged Monday night. “There are actually competitive leagues and it’s cheaper than creating a football team.”

ACC officials emphasized Monday night that the competitive video gaming program is a recruitment tool that they hope will boost enrollment at the community college.

“Where did this idea come from?” ACC trustee chairman Dr. Roslyn Crisp asked.

ACC president Dr. Algie Gatewood said that one of his staffers had recommended it. “It will give students more to do here at our campus,” the president added. “It will hopefully evolve into a curriculum program. There is major money that can be made in this – it’s a huge industry.”

“At some point we will be educating these people to try and design these games?” asked trustee Steve Carter, who also serves as the vice chairman for Alamance County’s board of commissioners.

“That,” Gatewood said, “is the hope.”

“I just want to be clear on how this is going to come back to the curriculum committee,” ACC trustee Mark Gordon wondered.

Once the program is established, those details would be provided to the curriculum committee “as it grows,” Glidewell explained.

ACC trustee Dr. Charles Scott asked whether there would need to be supervision of the types of games that can be used for the competitive video gaming program. “Some games are kind of questionable,” he pointed out.

Josefvon Jones, who is the director of diversity, equity, and inclusion at ACC, assured the trustees Monday night that questionable games wouldn’t be an issue. “We would choose games that are family-friendly,” he told the trustees. “We wouldn’t play first-person shooter games, or anything that would be [questionable] in this particular climate.”

The first-person shooter video games that Jones referenced typically feature firearms-based combat, according to two of the genre’s most prolific developers, Activision and Electronic Arts.

“How does the program generate revenue for the college?” Carter asked.

“More students,” Gatewood said. “[For] every athlete who enrolls in your college, there are a number of students who come along with that athlete.

“And these students would be athletes – not the kind we’re accustomed to,” Gatewood added. “I’m banking on the fact that we would be getting more students to come to our college that we wouldn’t have otherwise.”

ACC’s trustees subsequently voted 12-0 to approve the administration’s request to use between $55,000 and $65,000 in institutional funds from bookstore commissions to purchase 15 special computers for the competitive video gaming program.

ACC officials confirmed for The Alamance News this week that the administration doesn’t currently have a specific location in mind for the program due to ongoing renovations that are underway on the Graham campus.

In other business, the trustees also voted unanimously this week to renew Gatewood’s contract for an additional year, effective July 1 through June 30, 2023, coinciding with the 2022-23 fiscal year. The trustees typically vote on any change in the president’s compensation at their first meeting of the new fiscal year, which is currently scheduled for August 8.

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