The bastard child of Oregon

I remember the first time I walked around Portland State University. I loved how it was nestled in Portland, the small big-city that I had grown up in.

I remember the first time I walked around Portland State University. I loved how it was nestled in Portland, the small big-city that I had grown up in. I had no interest in sticking myself in the middle of nowhere–I wasn’t and never could be a country bumpkin, even within the confines of a college town. I love Borders too much. And really good coffee (Starbucks does not qualify). I loved the trees interspersed between skyscrapers and university buildings. It was all so…urban.

And then I walked into Neuberger Hall. And then Cramer Hall. And then Lincoln Hall. Love ended there. The buildings were horribly outdated, as were the torture devices they called desks. I went to a high school that was originally built for about 500 students in the 1950s, and the building wasn’t as bad as these. Why is an urban university in such poor condition? A university where 20-somethings and white-collar professionals often sit side by side in a classroom?

Having visited Oregon State University and the University of Oregon, I was amazed at how nice everything was in the middle of Hicksville, U.S.A. compared to Portland State. Surely PSU would have better facilities and more financial help because it has the largest business and graduate schools in the state, is in a city near large companies and corporations, and isn’t in the middle of nowhere. Not so.

Apparently, as long as your university is in BFE and has decent sports teams, you get more money, better facilities, state-of-the-art equipment (whether it be for sports, science or whatnot), and professors who are better paid.

In fall 2004, OSU had a total of 15,702 students and U of O had 16,358. PSU had 17,378. Now guess who received more funding from the Oregon University System during 2004-05? OSU received $562,802,988, and U of O received $570,778,537. And what did the poor little bastard child of the Oregon University System (that would be PSU, folks) receive? A whopping $375,627,970.

Despite higher enrollment and outdated facilities, PSU gets shafted by almost $200 million compared to OSU and U of O. While these amounts include things such as tuition, fees, housing costs, grants, financial aid, and various other things that each university receives, when looking at the numbers, PSU still receives less money in every single category, including what the state of Oregon decides to allot to PSU.

What about our professors? PSU does have more faculty than OSU or U of O (it’s about damn time we got more of something), but one would also think that our professors would be paid more since these people live either in Portland or close to it, where the standard of living is higher than it is in the boonies. On the contrary, those who work for our fine university get the short end of the stick once more.

According to a study conducted by the American Association of University Professors for the 2003-04 year, professors at U of O made an average of $83,100, OSU professors averaged $79,400, and PSU? $74,600. Ouch. Why is that? More students equal more work for a professor. A higher standard of living equals more expenses, so why are they not being compensated as well as their rural counterparts? Or, heaven forbid, better?

The only thing that I can think of that differs at these universities, other than location, is the fact that OSU and U of O place a heavier emphasis on sports. But why should that play a part in how much money a school receives, if that is really the reason why OSU and U of O get more funding? Ideally, shouldn’t sports be self-supporting, seeing as how the main reason most people go to college is to get a degree, not to play or watch sports?

Maybe PSU should put in for a substantial increase in funding, seeing as how we now have Jerry Glanville.

Portland State needs something distinctive to put it on the academic map (something more than Glanville. Sorry, Jerry). This need is why I was extremely excited to hear that there is talk of PSU and Oregon Health and Sciences University (OHSU) possibly joining forces to create a larger, more specialized university. This would make PSU unlike any other university in Oregon. This is what would set us apart.

PSU is consistently categorized as a fourth-tier university, which is really a shame. It isn’t that bad of a university. You have your good professors and your bad ones just like at any other university. It just needs a facelift. OK, fine. It needs a facelift, liposuction and a body tuck. And maybe some hair plugs and Botox to make it look nice. If something of the magnitude of merging PSU and OHSU happened, PSU would ultimately get more funding and maybe worm its way out of fourth tier-dom. And then maybe some of us wouldn’t be so ashamed to say that we are the misbegotten offspring of a shunned university.