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Football Instead of Classes?

Is the UW  Athletic Department run as an amusement with essentially no attention to the impact of its public face on its purported educational mission of this great school?  This questionis raised by the plans, next week, for the UW to host a midweek football game.  The result has been a lot of concern about how this event will disrupt the campus’ core services .. such things as research and education.

Our president, Dr. Wise, assures us that the game will bring attention to lour “other programs.”  What programs are these that will be helped by a game played on national TV?  Does commitment to this game say anything about how the administration views research and teaching vs. public amusements as the core goals of the UW?

I suspect it is obvious to everyone that pursuit of midweek football fame is part and parcel of the sports enterprise.  However,  I found it interesting that Phyllis Wise, our President,  chose to justify this compromise of other UW programs by claiming that the mid week fame would birng attention or support to our “other programs.”

The funny thing is that I too enjoy the Huskies and would rather root for the young players than for their older and better paid progeny, that is the Seahawks.  I see the Huskies as one of many educationally useful aspects of the UW that also provide pleasure and amusement for out larger community.  Examples include the Arboretum, Burke Museum, Meany Theater, UW performance groups,  art shows at the Henry, and so on.  In a sense the Medical School itself, besides being my home, contributes to the pleasure as well as the welfare of the greater community.

Serious, “pro” level sports are not unique to state universities.  As a premier research campus, the UW’s peers include the great private schools and many of these,  Harvard, Stanford, Yale, Notre Dame, . consider serious athletics a very real part of education.
I suspect the same regard for pro sports training is held by man yon the UW campus.  Many faculty and even more of our alums would argue that physical education and the athletic experience are valid parts of a University experience as well as parts of what may be considered our external face.  In that sense, the Athletic Dept ought not to be different from any other component of the UW.

However, Dr. Wise’s comment about how the Thursday game helps 0ur “other programs”  seems to me to provide an opening to ask ourselves “what is our intent in our having this amusement as part of the function of the UW?   Is the UW  AD run as an amusement with essentially no attention to the impact of its public face on its purported educational mission.

Will the fame from this game somehow improve our position with the State legislature?  Will it help imperiled parts of our more core missions?  Will Thursday’s game add to the fame of our other athletic programs .. e.g. the now unfunded swim team?   Will the added fame add to our ability to recruit minority students who may see us as only interested in then as athletes?


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