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How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2010)

Recently, students at Stanford had a novel idea: they petitioned to be excused from classes during the Orange Bowl. Of course, that went down in flames- glorious flames. Their commendable effort leaves me wondering “why UO hasn’t asked the same?”

The petition, signed by over 1,600 Stanford students did not ask for a shift in the academic calendar, but merely the excusal of those students traveling with the team. The petition argued that Stanford was known as a team that didn’t travel well and students wanted to change their reputation but were worried about missing valuable class time:

Stanford has been ruthlessly defamed across the country as being a school that doesn’t “travel well”, a highly contestable assertion given our presence at last year’s Sun Bowl. We believe that Stanford students should have the chance to attend the Orange Bowl without fearing that a professor will drop them from a course.

Therefore, President Hennessy, we petition you, Provost Etchemendy, and Vice Provost Elam to excuse the absences of those students who will be traveling to Miami, so we may witness a piece of Cardinal history while once and for all putting to rest the notion that Stanford fans do not support their world-class sports teams.

The request was both logical and reasonable, in fact, too reasonable. Why should campus only close for traveling students and students affiliated with the team? All of these students take up a significant portion of the student population, at UO it’s estimated at about 2,000 students (out of the university’s 23,389). With all of these students absent from classes, it would make more sense to shift the academic calendar.Yeah, it would be slightly inconvenient, but less of a mess than the disaster no-show drops are going to cause. In addition, when too many individuals are absent, the whole class suffers as they try to catch up.

Furthermore, traveling students are not the only ones affected by Bowl games. It’s not an excuse, but it’s a fact that for many students, watching their team on TV and getting smashed are simultaneous. Presumably, faculty also partakes in the football watching, though  the after game tradition of celebrating by drinking or drinking ones sorrows away seem to include the whole community. The day after a bowl game is a day needed for necessary recovery. Therefore, when a bowl game conflicts with an academic calendar, it is in the best interest of that school to readjust its schedule. But I digress; students from Stanford were met with a somewhat pointed letter from the Provost (emphasis mine):

On Jan. 3, the first day of Winter Quarter classes, Stanford’s football team will play in the Orange Bowl… Stanford faculty have always been very supportive of our athletes and other students whose talents give them opportunities and obligations to participate in outside activities that enhance their educational experiences. It is remarkable how well these students balance their commitment to their studies with their commitment to sports, performance or other pursuits.

I’m writing to ask that you show the same support and flexibility for students who want to accompany our football team to the Orange Bowl on Jan. 3. This Cardinal football team is exceptional in its success, and we can understand the students’ eagerness to attend the game and show the team the support they deserve.

The president and I hope you will remain flexible with students who miss the first day or two of classes to travel to Florida. This may be a unique event for our students, and we understand their desire to fully embrace the opportunity. We hope you do, too.

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season!


John Etchemendy


Students at UO received an eerily similar letter signed by both the Provost and the President (emphasis mine):

Dear colleagues and students,

We are delighted that the University of Oregon will compete in the BCS championship game on Monday, January 10, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona…

The timing of this game, namely the second Monday of winter term, and its scale with more than two thousand of our students, faculty and staff likely to be in attendance, requires some thoughtful planning… In particular, we will not cancel or move any class days for this event, as some institutions have done.

Those most affected are the student-athletes and the football team’s undergraduate and graduate student assistants, since they will be in Arizona during the first week of the term. Our outstanding Services for Student Athletes group, working with the coaching staff, have outlined an agenda which includes intersession study, textbook distribution, mandatory tutor sessions, and some remote class attendance… We ask for the cooperation of faculty who will be contacted by students and staff asking for needed course materials. Also, our registration processes, particularly at the departmental level, should not penalize these students by dropping them from courses when they cannot attend those first days of class.

Students affiliated with the Oregon Marching Band and cheerleading squad should also be permitted to reschedule or make up missed work…

We expect students, faculty, and staff to participate fully in UO classes during week one, and campus will be open for business as usual on the day of the game

Thank you for your understanding and support.

Richard W. Lariviere       James Bean

President Senior               Vice President and Provost

Thus, without even petitioning, we have been shut down because UO doesn’t close for anything (thank you Mr. Grinch). Both letters have the same tone; nonchalant- academic superiority, asking kindly for teachers to be understanding without any real threat of reinforcement (other than the academic regulations protecting athletes).

It looks like both UO and Stanford have not so much benched their 12th man as neglected to include him in the team. It’s a sad day when ‘Bama can get something right that UO can’t.

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