January 10, 2010 - 11:09 AM
My mom told me growing up that "someone in a glass house shouldn't throw stones." However, I now find myself outside the glass house, and I can't go in. The "glass house," quite literally, is the brand new John E. Jaqua Academic Center for Student-Athletes. The building is physically mocking because you can see into the glass cube from all sides, but non-athletes are only allowed on the first floor. On top of that, there's a moat which physically and metaphorically keeps out 98 percent of students (myself included).
I do not intend to bash athletics in this post (if you read my past posts it is quite clear I'm a big Ducks sports fan). The Jaqua Center has a noble mission to offer tutoring to student athletes (and employs student tutors and receptionists). Athletes deserve extra help because they have time-intensive commitments to their sports, so tutoring, in theory, helps them learn the material. Plus, as NCAA commercials tell us, "there are over 380,000 NCAA student athletes. And just about all of them will be going pro in something other than sports." Therefore, a quality education is important since student athletes will go into careers that are not athletics.
In addition, college athletics has its merits because it allows higher education for more people from diverse backgrounds that may not be able to otherwise attend college, and the University of Oregon's Athletic Department is testament to that. In addition, the Athletic Department brings in money for the University. However, the majority of the student body doesn't enjoy first-rate tutoring assistance even though many students work to support themselves, juggle time and and energy intensive extra curriculars, and/or have families of their own. More and more, the Jaqua Center is becoming a focal point for debate about the University's commitment to academics and athletics (see ODE opinion piece).
For this reason, I feel that the University should reevaluate its priorities in balancing athletics and academics for all students. We have beautiful athletic facilities (and some academic facilities), but there is definitely an imbalance on campus. For instance, the student unions are still buried in the basement of the EMU, confined to former janitors closets, and part of KWVA (the campus radio station) is housed in a former bathroom. Needless to say, priorities are questionable.
Donations are crucial to our University because we're largely funded by private donors, and I hope one day to be in a position to give back to the University because I believe in the the opportunities it has given me. Nonetheless, I hope that the University may fairly weigh its commitment to academics and athletics; the Jaqua Center has made me question that balance.
As a student, a quality product on the field or court surrounded by the tailgate festivities only goes so far; I value my experiences learning in the classroom equally if not more than on the weekends. I am an academic that enjoys an intellectually stimulating environment at the U of O, and a physical space helps enable that environment. So let's be realistic: the Jaqua Center is for recruits and their their parents to satisfy their questions about U of O's "commitment to academics" through eye-appeal. For some student athletes, the Jaqua Center helps keep them academically eligible so they don't miss any action on the field, court, track, etc-it's not entirely about learning. It's unfortunate that non-athletes have to be mocked by the Jaqua Center every day, dominating the intersection of Agate and Franklin. I hope our University lives up to its "commitment to academics" by putting some more substance (and money) behind it.
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Photo by Kevin Clark of the Register Guard