"Student-Athletes" skip 2 weeks of 10 week term

2/19/2012: I tend to focus on what Pat Kilkenny’s weird baseball obsession is costing UO in dollars. Kilkenny got the UO Foundation to loan athletics millions to build “PK Park” on a 6.25% ten year balloon loan, pledging future media revenues as collateral. 

But as Richard Sundt notes, the corruption is not just about the money:

17 February 2012

Dear Athletic Director Mullens, Coach Horton, UO President Berdahl, Interim Provost Davis, Senate President Kyr, ASUO President Eckstein:

I read in today’s RG a headline about UO baseball: “Ducks roll up frequent-flier miles to open.” In this report Adam Jude writes that the “unranked” team will be going to Honolulu to open a series of games that will require Duck players to travel 9000 miles in 12 days.  These student-athletes will be accumulating more than frequent class absences (normally about 2-3 days per week during the season); they will accumulate a complete absence from classes for one week and five days. If this is not a travesty of education, I don’t know what is.  More to the point: It is sham education.

This university and all others in the country that allow sports programs to thrive on missing classes for twelve straight days —let alone for 2-3 days a week— should ask if they are not corrupting higher education. The persons complicit in downgrading academics are many, not only Athletic Directors and Coaches, but also Administration officials who wink at this, Faculty who do not speak up against the destruction of the University’s teaching mission (if it still exists, read Arum and Roksa, Academically Adrift), and Faculty in the Intercollegiate Athletic who over the years, and most especially when the baseball program was re-instituted (even when I pointed out the sport’s frequent absence program), have not cared to address head-on the issues relating to the draining of classrooms for the benefit of athletics. When is this going to end?

Faculty, are your classes so unimportant, so devoid of content and originality that students can miss nearly two weeks and this doesn’t matter? What’s the deal? Or, can everything in your courses be done on-line, and if so, then let’s not waste time and money building more classrooms; we can even outsource teaching, and cut any number of positions (even yours) in the process. Or, just let the Jacqua Center do the teaching —what, in the hope that its staff possesses the same level of competency in your area of expertise as you do?

Richard Sundt
Art History

Where is UO’s Faculty Athletics Representative, Jim O’Fallon on this issue? UO is paying him $187,729 at a 0.5 FTE, plus expenses to protect our “student-athletes” from exploitation. But according to the NY Times columnist Joe Nocera, O’Fallon’s busy working for the NCAA infractions committee, making sure the “student-athletes” don’t get free textbooks. Because that would be an impermissible benefit. But it’s OK for UO to pay *him* to do the NCAA’s dirty work. Can anyone make sense of any of this?

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9 Responses to "Student-Athletes" skip 2 weeks of 10 week term

  1. Anonymous says:


  2. Anonymous says:

    Dear Richard Sundt, Please bring a relevant motion to the UO Senate. As member of the Faculty, you have that right. This will ensure a public discussion of this travesty, which is likely to go all the way to the Assembly. Our President will be obliged to respond, publicly, thanks to our current Constitution.

  3. Anonymous says:

    After teaching at the U of O for more than thirty years, I have never been clear on whether faculty are obliged to excuse absences of this sort or not. If we are not obliged to excuse absences, why we don’t we just set our own rules and let the sports people work within them? If we are obliged to excuse such absences – why? Over the years, I have become more rigid on this sort of thing, only excusing absences/late paper/etc. for documented illness or death in the family.

    • Anonymous says:

      The Old Man has never excused an absence for other than medical disability. In his first teaching position, he caught the dickens for not excusing a student from a midterm exam so he could show his hog in Chicago,

  4. Anonymous says:

    Dog barks in

    Yes I traditionally have a lot of student-athletes in any general education class I might
    teach and yes, they are hard to deal with. But the reality is that, during season, they
    have a much higher obligation in their own minds and so I try to accomodate them and it usually
    works out (besides, contrary to Dr. Sundt’s letter) my classes really are devoid of content).

    I have always thought that a more sensible system would be for those in-season student athletes
    to take that particular term off. NCAA ought to give 6 years of Academic Scholarship for 4 year
    Athletes so as to give them a chance of getting a degree after their 4 years of eligibility are
    up. Of course, most won’t, but some will.

    In an ideal world, student-athletes are the same as normal students. We are very very far from
    that ideal world, and trying to pretend we will in an ideal world will only cause conflict.

    • Anonymous says:

      Dog makes a good point. It is the student (athlete cheer-leader, marching band member) who suffers when Faculty decline to cooperate with the request from Intercollege Sports Inc. to make arrangements that accommodate the post-season activities. A unionized faculty would face the same kind of dilemma should they ever have to threaten the strike option.

    • Anonymous says:

      dog barks back

      thanks anon @Feb 20 09:27

      I did fail to mention the Marching Band – over my career I think I have had more marching
      band students that need to be excused than actual athletes. In general, marching band
      students tend to be good students. Why penalize them? Don’t know about cheer-leaders –
      they tend to avoid me.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I’ve never had any trouble with the “student-athletes” being away, as far as giving tests goes. The athletic department has always been very willing to do whatever makes it easy for me, e.g. they will pick up the test, proctor it, return it, etc. I have to say this happens rarely, maybe because I’m in one of the natural sciences, with few athletes enrolled?

    On the other hand, I’ve never responded to their requests — which I haven’t received in years — for info on athletes who are struggling — I figure I will treat the jocks the same as everyone else, in that respect.

    Big time athletics is not going to go away. (If it did, we’d be screwed, owing a fortune on the facilities.) I can’t imagine a better way for the faculty to complete alienate almost everyone than by coming up with a scheme to fuck over the athletes when they’re away.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I believe it is University policy (whatever that means) to forgive student athletes absenses IF they play for an “NCAA” sport. Club sports do not enjoy the same privilege. I am always annoyed when club sports players bring their “notes” from the club sports office verifying their participation, which they act like is permission to miss class. You do not have to oblige these players. (Some examples are men’s lacrosse and hockey.) I’m not sure why we have to excuse the big-time players, and not the “recreational” club sports players.