Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Will They Never Learn?

Another Reaction to Regent Johnson's

Remarks on the Sports Page of

St. Paul Pioneer-Press

[Added Later: Link to letter from MWM to Margaret Sughrue Carlson, former director of U of M alumni association.]

My friend Michael McNabb is a double alum of the U of M both for his undergraduate and law degrees.  Four of his children have attended the U. He shares my own wish that the university return to its original priorities, the first and foremost of which should be an excellent education at an affordable cost for the citizens of the state. I post with permission from an email he has just sent. 

Headline in the St. Paul Pioneer Press today (Wednesday, October 27):

U Regent Wants Football Focus

The report contains the following quotations from Regent Dean Johnson, the former majority leader of the Minnesota State Senate:

"The University of Minnesota has three things to do:  teach, provide research and outreach.  The first two are extremely important.  The third, the outreach--I can think of no better outreach than to have a winning football team, a Big Ten championship and a competitive national football team. . .

"If the Golden Gophers were to go back to the Rose Bowl or be nationally competitive, that helps us to get through the workday; that takes care of a lot of things.  The positives:  the alumni become more excited, donors begin to feel good about their giving, not only to athletics, but to the law school, to the school of medicine, to whatever.  And it all generates an enthusiasm.  . .

"During the interview of our presidential search, I will ask, 'What has been your commitment to athletics and to football and how  have you budgeted?'  Not 'What are your plans, but what has your track record been?'

"Now, we'll ask questions of academics and research and on and on, too.  They are equally important.  But I think the people of this state want us to, and I think we owe it to them, to be more competitive in collegiate football."

Where to begin with this nonsense?  For starters:

(1) Entertainment (football) is not outreach (or public service) for an institution of higher education.

(2) It is a myth that winning athletic teams generate widespread alumni support for academic programs.  [See the attached letter to the former director of the Minnesota Alumni Association.]

(3) The objective of an institution of higher education is not to help people "get through the workday" by making them feel good about winning games.  An institution higher education does prepare people to make intelligent decisions about their life and their work.

(4) The Regents owe it to the people of Minnesota to devote their time and effort to finding solutions to serious problems that threaten higher education today.

Michael W. McNabb
University of Minnesota Alum

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