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The Oregonian and R-G on Academics vs. Athletics

The editorial boards of both the Oregonian and Register-Guard weigh in on the academics versus athletics hullabaloo at the University.

From The Oregonian:

To be fair, it’s easy to see the source of [the professors’] frustration. Private giving to Ducks sports is at an all-time high, while Oregon has slipped to 46th in the nation for per-student public funding of higher education. That’s a national embarrassment, and it translates directly to higher tuition, bigger classes, fewer course offerings and fewer full-time professors.

But sports aren’t to blame for the University of Oregon’s financial or academic woes. The athletic department is almost entirely self-sustaining and doesn’t siphon money from academics. At its best, it may even help the academic side by raising the university’s profile. What’s more, many of the university’s biggest sports donors earmark money for scholarships and academic programs.

From The R-G:

To the extent that a university relies on private donations, it must respond to donors’ priorities. That’s neither the university’s nor the donors’ fault. If the UO athletic department appears to be well-off financially, it’s because donors want it that way. University administrators would be foolish to reject their generosity – though naturally they should also court donors whose gifts are directed elsewhere on campus.

In the UO’s case, the importance of private donations has been amplified by a decline in public support. State support has fallen by more than half since 1990, and now accounts for only 14 percent of the university’s budget. Professors aren’t underpaid because coaches make fat salaries. Disinvestment by the state, not a successful athletic department, is the real source of penury for the UO’s academic programs.

It is probable that the imbalance in spending between athletics and academics will not be resolved to the professors’ satisfaction anytime soon, but that’s not the fault of this school’s administration. Rather, it is donors who tend to be more attracted to giving money to the University’s athletic programs. The football team is going to have more media recognition (no matter how poorly they perform against Mountain West teams) than any of the University’s research labs. It’s up to the professors themselves to curry favor with private donors and encourage them to start putting more money into the learning side of things, rather than criticizing the administration. The administration, for its part, seems to be doing what it can.

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