Snowpocalypse mensch Sherwin Simmons pummels Duck FAR Jim O’Fallon

Art History emeritus professor Sherwin Simmons is best known for his well-tempered response to the snowpocalypse of 2013.

Duck strategic communicators were trying to arrange some good press showing their athletes and regular students having fun together with a friendly snowball fight, so the coaches released the football players from their indentured servitude and sent them to campus for a few hours. I’m sure it sounded like a good idea, but things got out of hand quickly:

2M youtube hits and many news stories and editorials later, Gottfredson had to apologize, and people were pushing for criminal charges against the football players. Simmons would have none of that:

“It was a snowball fight,” Simmons, who does not plan to press charges, told Canzano. “The students shouldn’t involve people who aren’t part of it, but this is not high crimes, not an assault, not even a misdemeanor. No one should be charged. That would be nuts.”

Now Professor Simmons has a response in the RG to last week’s letter from Faculty Athletics Representative Jim O’Fallon, who defended UO’s $2.2M “separate and unequal” subsidy for athlete-only tutoring. Simmons is considerably less patient with Professor O’Fallon’s nonsense than he was with the student-athletes:

Inequities raise ethical questions

When informed that, because of a signed agreement between David Frohnmayer and Phil Knight, academic support for University of Oregon student-athletes is now subsidized at 18 times the level of the UO’s other 23,500 students, athletic director Rob Mullens said, “I only live in the athletics figures.”

That statement, reported in a March 7 article (“Faculty eyeing athletics budget”), is appalling, given that a university administrator would so casually dismiss the needs of the many students who work just as hard as UO student-athletes to finance their educations.

That was followed by comments from James O’Fallon, UO faculty athletics representative, defending the status quo (letters, March 12). Tellingly, O’Fallon avoided justifying the funding inequity and focused on the exclusion of others from two-thirds of the Jacqua center for student-athletes, a public building. Apparently UO student-athletes are so popular they wouldn’t be able to study elsewhere.

For a lawyer, that’s an extremely weak argument because there are many rooms with doors on the UO campus.

While O’Fallon characterized any questioning of the existing situation as “invidious,” given student-athletes’ mandated time commitments to sports, I doubt any critic believes they shouldn’t receive excellent academic support.

It’s simply a matter of proportion that leads questioners to ask if allowing the current situation to continue is an ethically proper position for university administrators to take.

Or, if ethical arguments carry no weight in today’s university, filing official complaints would compel answers to whether the inequity and exclusions are legal.

WILLIAM SHERWIN SIMMONS

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