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Should the jocks get credit for increasing enrollment?

12/30/2010: UO Prof Richard Sundt takes on the boosters. From the RG Letters:

Academic success has other causes

In his Dec. 27 guest viewpoint, Duck fan Alex Richanbach is mad at the University of Oregon Athletic Department for telling Glendale game-goers to wear yellow. He nevertheless celebrates the Ducks’ unbridled consumerism, which, among other things, means relentless changes of uniform style and color, all thanks to wealthy donors. Richanbach is equally enthusiastic about UO athletics, for its success “has directly influenced the success and popularity of our academic programs.”

As a moviemaker, he brings his Hollywood unreality to color his perception of what makes the UO attractive to many students, including those from California. He writes: “The growth of admissions, faculty and facilities is impressive, and … much of that has its roots in the innovative work done by the athletic department.”

Before engaging in such undocumented boosterism, of the sort also plied by the UO Foundation in its full-page ad last summer in The Register-Guard, he needs to explain why admissions are up at all public Oregon universities, including those that cannot match UO prowess in sports. Moreover, he should examine in detail whether other donations (besides those of Nike and its allies) have come to us because of athletics.

And if he digs deeper, he will learn that, in most cases, the quality and reputation of the faculty, particularly those holding the Knight-endowed chairs, long preceded Oregon’s current success on the playing field, and that their innovative research, and that of other UO faculty, has in many cases been made possible by funding won through national and international academic competitions.

Richard Sundt

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