The New York Times ran an article on April 30, 2010 discussing the imbalance of athletics and academics at the University of Oregon. Mentioned more times than one was noteworthy financial donor, Phil Knight. Knight has donated hundreds of millions of dollars towards the university’s athletic program. His donations, while very generous, send the idea that athletes are more important than students.
I had the opportunity to speak with Nathan Tublitz, a vocal opponent of the imbalance of athletics and academics. Tublitz is also a university biology professor and president of the university Senate. He made the point that there are roughly 500 students on athletic scholarships at the university. Those 500 of the 22,000 students at the U of O make up roughly 2.5% of the student population. This 2.5% of students are receiving a huge amount of university resources. Tublitz explains that “At the Jaqua Center, student athletes have a tutor for ever class, a free computer*, mandatory study hall where tutors check their homework, and all their books are paid for.” Despite all these added bonuses, student athletes graduate at a lower rate than the rest of the student body. It’s the accumulation of perks and special treatment that forces this huge imbalance between students and student athletes.
The university is doing lots of things to make the lives of student athletes easier, but they are not doing similar things for non-student athletes. I searched online for academic donations that Phil Knight has made, but the only thing I could find was his $27 million donation towards the renovation of the Knight Library. Phil Knight has donated more to the Stanford Business school in one day ($110 million) than in total to academics at University of Oregon. Tublitz clarifies that he is not against athletics, but against “the imbalance, the inappropriate emphasis, on a tangental aspect of the university.” The U of O needs to even out the balance between athletics and academics. We must not forget that the word “athletics” is not mentioned in the university mission statement.
*The laptops available to student athletes are free except for the $100 paid yearly for insurance.
New York Time’s “Off-Field Turmoil Causes Soul Searching at Oregon“