I chose to attend Portland State for a number of reasons, but one of the most influential is PSU’s lack of cult-like sports fanaticism that dominates the culture of so many universities across the country.
Universities are schools, and as such, their focus should be on conducting research and teaching students the skills needed to succeed in life, a process culminating in students earning a college degree. Unfortunately, many universities have become little more than a breeding ground for sports fanatics, and it seems that an ever-increasing number of institutions for higher education are becoming sports-centered businesses. Their paying customers are the students and fans who mindlessly cheer on the school team and fork over lots and lots of cash for the privilege.
A perfect example of this phenomenon is at the University of Oregon, where last year the new Football Performance Center was unveiled. The center cost an estimated $68 million and is considerably more opulent than what many NFL teams possess.
Considering the exponential rise in tuition over the past two decades, I find this practice of sports worship highly offensive. The UO’s proud unveiling of its grandiose and completely unnecessary Football Performance Center, with its country-club, day-spa atmosphere, helped cement my choice to attend PSU.
So it was with a rising frustration that I read in a recent issue of the Vanguard that PSU President Wim Wiewel has requested $1.5 million from the Student Fee Committee for “a major renovation” to the Peter Stott Center. The newly renovated building will be renamed the Viking Pavilion and Academic Center.
Currently, the Stott Center, located next to Millar Library, is PSU’s athletic center and provides recreational areas; a running track; classrooms; various squash, basketball, racquetball and other courts; and some office space. According to the PSU website, the Stott Center recently benefited from a $1 million grant for various unspecified improvements.
So why does Wiewel want more money from us, the students, to upgrade a building that has already received money for upgrades? According to the previous Vanguard article, the money would be used to “add 30,000 square feet of space for studying, tutoring, advising, and health and physical education classes. It will also include a 5,500-seat pavilion that will provide space for sporting events, academic symposia, concerts and other programs.”
Well now. Studying spaces, classrooms and concert spaces? Maybe this idea isn’t so bad. The PSU campus has many aging buildings, and the Stott Center is no exception. PSU seems to have paid attention to the needs of its entire student body and has fixed, maintained and rebuilt as necessary to meet the needs of its student population.
The School of Business building will be receiving a huge, $60 million renovation beginning in Aug. 2015 which will almost triple the square footage of the building to bring it in line with the needs of current and future students.
While there is much progress yet to be made (the Smith Memorial Student Union in particular needs attention—something that the school has acknowledged and is working on), the fact that PSU is working to benefit all students and not just a select few that can bring them the most return on investment is a welcome breath of fresh air.
It’s also important to keep in mind that many athletic spaces are not the sole domain of athletes. For example, I would be thrilled if the new Viking Pavilion were to incorporate two or three more squash courts, as squash is truly a wonderful way to pass time and vent frustrations after a long day of hard studying. I’m no athlete, but a game of squash is right up my alley.
With a student population of nearly 30,000, any increase in spaces for studying and classroom use is welcome. Lack of study space is often a big problem at large universities and with Portland’s famously poor weather and the lack of student housing on campus, PSU students need as much indoor space as possible to learn and to be taught. My previous college suffered from an extreme lack of studying and teaching space—to the extent that students were studying in their cars and faculty were teaching classes in their offices. While PSU is not nearly that bad, having quiet areas to study is of paramount importance.
I’m glad Wiewel puts the needs of all students first, rather than a select few. If the Viking Pavilion can truly be used as an all-inclusive building, offering something that every student can benefit from, then I support using student fees to help modernize it and make it more inviting for the PSU community.