On the crisp night that was Thursday the first of March, the University of Oregon Student Coalition on Reprioritizing Education embarked on its maiden voyage towards what’s written up there on ASUO Senator Molly Bacon’s sign. Athletic Department Accountability.
While it was certainly–but not exclusively– an ASUO affair, students came together to protest the UO Athletic Department’s lack of transparency and cooperation. The Commentator was there to show its support, like it damn well should have been. I mean c’mon, after all the harping we do about athletics. Well, let me be more specific. I was there to show my support, like I damn well should have been– after all the harping I do about athletics.
Along with a substantial smattering of normal student participants, it should be noted that many ASUO Senators and Executive Staff were present, including President Ben Eckstein and VP Katie Taylor. Oh, and President Eckstein was adamant that I relay the fact that he went “casual-yet-political” at this event, donning a gray Obama crewneck sweatshirt and jeans. As for VP Taylor, I couldn’t tell ya what she was wearing. Members of the ODE whom I will keep unnamed and myself acknowledged and lauded her decision to steer clear of us, the press.
Before their march on MATT Court, rally participants gathered at the EMU amphitheater, where they were provided with picket signs without pickets, and were roused with a few words from the SCORE campaign coordinators. I was able to get a hold of the hard copies of their little speeches, and have quoted parts of each below. Cedar Cosner, a SCORE coordinator and ASUO elections coordinator alike, spoke first:
Rob Mullens, we are calling on you today to consider your successes, to consider what all of that would be without us. Give it Back. All of you now are here because you appreciate that sentiment. It is said that it never rains in Autzen. Well, it may be raining here and now [it wasn't...], but that does not erase our conviction. That does not soften our resolve. We shall be heard. We shall be seen. We shall make those in charge quake with the implications of our stand. We are the University of Oregon, we are Ducks, we are students, and we deserve better!
Cosner was followed by SCORE coordinator Andrew Rodgers, who is also the ASUO Communications Director:
Student Athletes deserve to be treated as students first. They deserve the support of an Athletics Department and a school administration that places the highest emphasis on our Academic mission. We all deserve this…Why are donors actively incentivized to contribute to Athletics over Academics? Why isn’t the admistration excersizing oversight in the affairs of Rob Mullens and all of the administrators of the Athletics Department? They owe it to each and every one of us to do so but they have failed in that charge.
And then they were off. They sauntered over to MATT, did a little chanting, and complied with all event security requests. The rally went absolutely swimmingly, and met only minor adversity– adversity that included some douches yelling “Go home” and “Why don’t you just enjoy the game like normal people” and “Wow, you’re really making a difference.” If you’re into that sort of discourse, I encourage you to explore the comments section of the rally’s Ol’ Dirty article for more tactless bro-interjections– each complete with its own futile rebuttal written by an anonymous (or identifed!) member (or former member) of the ASUO.
Although I lost my pen sometime during the excitement and tumult of it all, SCORE campaign coordinator Andrew Rodgers obliged me with a brief debriefing after the rally had come to a close. With my bare thumbs in the 30 degree weather, I typed his words frantically into a text message. Here is what I managed to transcribe and save as a draft:
great start in our mission to make a more account able coommunity lac of inst control disinvesment when we put so much emph on athletic
That isn’t completely unintelligible is it? All the key words are there. You get it. It’s not like there’s much to be said about the motivations, or the implications, of SCORE’s campaign that isn’t evident anyway. (Although there’s always this if you need some solid, angry Anti-Oregon-Athletics closing arguments) . Because as for me, and as for those involved with the campaign, the idea is basic and clear. The University of Oregon is an institution of higher education, and our athletics have proven to be an important, successful part of that whole. But that’s just it– athletics is a contributing part of a bigger entity than itself– no matter how much revenue it generates, no matter how much national attention it brings. The Athletic Department needs to get better at remembering that it’s just a part among many, not an independent whole. It needs to get better at channeling its success, and the fruits of its success, towards the the university’s fundamental and foremost purpose. I understand that by picketing an important basketball game– messages can get muddled. Nonetheless, it’s a shame, because I know that most of the students who strode past the protest and into the arena weren’t able recognize that the small noisy crowd who stood outside of the arena– stood outside, cold and noisy, for THEM–and for their money, and for their well being.
To close, I’m gonna use some imagery, so bear with me here. Behold below, the second photograph I’ve so gratefully borrowed from the ODE’s Tess Freeman.
Now look closely. I don’t spend much time in MATT Court, nor do I have a blueprint or a seating chart of the place. With that, I cannot tell you what it means, nor what it takes, to be able to wheel around on the top floor of the arena. But if you look up there, beyond the clamor and high above, you can see amongst that artsy wood paneling and that fucking ambient lighting, a few shadowy figures gazing ominously upon our little student protest. Like I said, it was a big game that night. So I wonder who those figures are, and what inflated role they play in the athletic department. I wonder what they were thinking when they saw this. I contemplate this and it gives me hope.