Archive for Thursday, July 1, 2010

University should not be defined by athletics

July 1, 2010

Kansas University has a bad case of jock itch, and it is confined to the athletics department. How widespread is the disease? Only time and exhaustive investigations will provide a prognosis.

What is regrettable is that a strong academic university is being defined by its athletics department and those who run it or, in my opinion, fail to do so. What is startling is to realize how financially dependent the university seems to be on the athletics department; this is absolutely upside-down.

KU is, or has been in the past, one of the crown jewels of Kansas, known for its scholars and research, as well as the thousands of graduates who have become physicians, educators, scientists, lawyers, authors, politicians and general leaders of tomorrow.

The majority of students slug their way financially through their degrees. They work hard, play hard and retain somehow a moral compass to guide them — a moral compass strengthened, in part, by professors and faculty whose job it is to guide them.

Most faculty are hard-working, dedicated, well-educated folks who take their jobs seriously and are paid modest wages for that hard work and dedication. They do not tend to swagger or brag, nor do they appear arrogant, smug or self-satisfied. They are, for the most part, hard-working and humble people.

Does the behavior of the athletics department diminish my support of the university as an academic institution? It does not.

I am a three-time graduate of KU, holding one master and two doctorate degrees. I am in the KU Women’s Hall of Fame and was a founder of the University Information Center — an effort that grew out of a coordinated effort of students and the administration during the campus unrest in May of l970. I return to KU on an annual basis to celebrate with other women who were, and are still proud to be, KU alumni and donors.

We want to usher in a generation of women and men dedicated to pursuing not only education, but equality and justice; men and women who want to give back to their communities, as I have been fortunate to do, the richness of education and experience gleaned in higher education.

We want their talents to extend beyond their community, into society and the world; to leave the world a better place than they found it. We want them to stand on our shoulders and reach greater heights and better accomplishments. It is what we work for and what we dedicate our lives to.

Am I disappointed in the public image with which KU must now struggle? Absolutely.

A university should not be defined by its athletics department, nor should it be financially dependent upon it. It is simply upside-down.

Will it ever right itself? I would say not without a struggle.

My support of the university itself, however, is unwavering.


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