Monday, May 14, 2007

can't we all get along?

Two logos, same school, very different meanings

There is a metaphorical and literal divide here at the University of Oregon between the academic and athletic sides. Divided by close to a mile's walk and a river, the main campus and the athletic department housed near Autzen Stadium epitomize an argument being made all across the United States in large colleges and universities: Are athletics more important than academics to a university? Should they take a precedent?

Yes and no. Yes, as athletic department budgets have skyrocketed (Oregon's budget has increased from $15 million in 1994 to more than $41 million this year), obviously the importance of top athletic departments (and, let's face it, that means the profit sports - football and men's basketball) are very important as marketing tools and ways to keep alumni involved. No, athletics are not more important than the studying being done on campus, but it is in my honest opinion as a college student that professors have FAR more important things to worry about distracting students than a football game during dead week.

It is indeed over games during "Dead Week" (specifically the weekend right before finals hosting the annual Civil War game against Oregon State, moved there due to a game being moved to Thursday night for television schedules) that the argument has returned to the spotlight on campus. And my view echoes that of many other students: this isn't the end of the world, as many professors have thought, and won't mean the end of academic credibility; let's face it, college students will find ways to distract themselves from studying for finals. Hell, it was my opinion freshman year that if I didn't have a Monday final or paper due, that was just one more day for partying - bonus!

And let's throw any argument of "retaining academic purity" (or anything along those lines) for
the student-athletes right out of the window; not only do they have much more academic help than the average student, for many of them they are athletes first and students second. This isn't to say that all of the players on the profit sports aren't here to get an education, just that the reality of college sports has shifted some priorities; not bad, not good, just different.

However, it is a worrying sign, especially here in Eugene. While there are signs that show that alumni who donate to athletics also donate to academics, the fact that it seems influence is being wielded by a select few is worrying. It's always worrying in any other facet of life, but in such a vulnerable time and place things could turn ugly soon.

I understand that it doesn't make professors look quite as good to their colleagues when the priorities seem to shift like this; however, the focus needs to be more on students - the ones who come here to get an education, and a very good education it is still - and the reality is that major athletic programs only add to college experience and can never take away. If a student can't get their act together around the Civil War game for finals week, they wouldn't be able to get their act together when left to their own devices to find a means of procrastination; the problem isn't the game, it's on the individual's priorities.

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