College faculty senate protests scheduling Civil War game

The University of Oregon and Oregon State may be rivals on the football field, but faculty at the two schools are on the same team when it comes to scheduling games on the eve of finals week.

The UO Senate approved a resolution Wednesday admonishing the athletic departments at both schools for agreeing to move the 2001 Civil War football game back to Dec. 1, which is the Saturday before the start of finals. In a rare gesture of solidarity, the OSU Senate is expected to approve an almost identical resolution at its meeting in May.

Faculty at the two schools say academics should come before athletics, and both schools have policies aimed at keeping students focused on their studies during the week leading up to finals. That’s a period known as “dead week,” and it’s generally considered the inviolate territory of academics, at least as far as professors are concerned.

English professor James Earl, president of the UO Senate, said he was “disappointed” when he heard the university had agreed to the schedule change as part of a deal to broadcast the game nationally on ABC. Although the deal had to be acted on quickly and will bring UO almost $600,000, he said it showed a lack of regard for the primary mission of both schools.

“Both athletic departments have to exhibit a higher sensitivity to the academic calendar,” he said. “This seemed like a real break from academic priorities.”Earl contacted art history professor Henry Sayre, president of the OSU Senate, and the two agreed to submit a resolution to both university bodies expressing concern over the schedule change. It also calls on the athletic departments to avoid future conflicts with major dates on the academic schedule.

Sayre said he wasn’t aware of the conflict when he heard about the Civil War move, largely because the fall term schedule puts finals week much earlier than usual. Finals will run Dec. 3-7, the earliest he remembers them ever being held.”I think no one even conceived we would be in finals week that early, and so nobody double-checked,” he said. “It hadn’t even occurred to me that was the Saturday before finals week.”

Dan Williams, the UO’s vice president for administration, said he and Athletic Director Bill Moos were aware of the finals schedule but felt it was worth accepting the deal. It not only brings the university more than twice what it would get for a regional broadcast, it also gives the university valuable national television exposure.

Williams said head football coach Mike Bellotti is concerned about his players’ success off the field and will make sure they prepare for finals as hard as they prepare for the big game. As for the student fans, Williams said he doesn’t think a football game will be too much of an added distraction.

“They’re adults. They make choices about how they use their time,” he said. “They’re adults and they’ll make good choices.”

But Williams did agree that better communication would help and said he wants to be sure faculty concerns are addressed in the future.

“It’s clear to me, particularly because of the concern of faculty leadership, that we have to talk these things through in ways we haven’t in the past,” he said. “There’s no doubt the success of the athletic program, especially the football program, is generating new issues for us that we’ll have to work on, and we’ll make an effort to do that.”