The $70-80 million expansion of Autzen stadium, which prompted my writing of an open memo on November 22nd, is an important but, despite its hefty price tag, a small component of a larger problem that I believe confronts this and other universities across the country.
Since the issue of athletics will be discussed more extensively at a later date, I will keep my remarks this afternoon brief and to the point, and for these reasons I shall read them.
The Autzen renovation and the $2.2 million dollars of university funds currently pledged to subsidize non-revenue sports at Oregon are just two examples of many signs indicating that the role of college athletics, not only here at Oregon, but throughout the country is in need of very deep and fundamental reformation. I do not expect that the Athletic Department at Oregon can undertake the necessary reforms on its own, for this would put it at a competitive disadvantage with Pac-10 and other collegiate bodies. The reformation needs to be a global one, so that university teams everywhere can compete on the same footing. University presidents and faculties throughout the United States should initiate and take charge of the needed reformation. To be sure, this will not be an easy task given the power and wealth of the athletic-industrial complex.
By reformation I mean a considerable reduction in the amount and scope of college athletics, as well as a diminution of its power and influence on campus life, particularly as it draws resources away from those of us who are engaged in doing precisely what the University's mission statement says we should be doing. The Library will soon begin its second round of serials cancellation and several colleges and schools at the University are facing cuts because of lower-than expected enrollments. Academic programs and we who do the educating at this University are asked to take the hit. Yet there is money available, in the order of $2.2 million of University funds to keep Oregon athletics afloat, a program which is mentioned neither in the University's mission statement, nor in the charter which founded this institution in 1876. The message to me is that we can jeopardize the educational mission of the University of Oregon, but not its athletic program. Save it at all costs!
In August 1996 President Frohnmayer wrote that "our excellence as an academy is maintained by the faculty's leadership in realizing our educational mission." For my part, at least, I ask, beg and plead the University administration to provide me with the means for doing so. Divert public money now allocated for sports to the University's stated mission. In closing, let me quote again from President Frohnmayer's same letter: "The tradition of faculty governance at the University of Oregon was established with the university's charter and is recognized in our state laws. Together, we have a responsibility for governing the institution in all matters of academic policy and student discipline. I invite you to join in the leadership of this institution."
Well, President Frohnmayer and all in Johnson Hall, here I am, just one voice, and according to all indications, one of many. I sincerely hope, despite some skepticism, that I and others will not only be heard, but that the majority opinion of the faculty will form the basis for your actions on all issues facing this University, and those related to the role of athletics most particularly. The time has come to redefine our priorities and to make sure that our budgets and efforts are in compliance with and truly reflect the words in our Mission Statement (see UO 1999-2000 Bulletin, page 4). Sadly, the athletic program as presently constituted is not aiding our educational mission, and if we are going to have it, then it should.
Richard A. Sundt Associate Professor Department of Art History Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: 346-4698