Saturday, September 5, 2015

A UA professor takes a stand

Let's have a round of applause for Daniel Coffey, the University of Akron political science  professor who is mad as hell and won't take a pass on the UA leadership's chaotic strategy to reduce a $60 million debt.  That much was clear in his letter to the Beacon Journal that was published Friday.  

He challenged the school's sacred cow, a losing football team in an athletics department in which full-time students are paying $400 in "general fees" a semester  to sustain sports.

 "As a faculty member," he wrote, ''I find this sickening.   Each semester  I meet with single mothers who bring their kids to class, returning vets suffering from post traumatic  stress disorder and first-generation students who work to support their families while they take night classes.'"   

He said it was "wrong" to charge students  for athletics programs, particularly when for many students, $400 is a "rent check, the cost of textbooks or a car repair." 

How well we know of  their gritty struggle.  As Nancy and I audited a number of art history classes, we noticed that some of the students fell asleep in their seats.  The professor was an understanding soul.  She said some of them had worked two or three jobs to pay for their classes and didn't get much sleep.

When Coffey  stepped up to oppose an entrenched front office, it was as though he stood in front of the tank in Tiananmen Square.  There is no indication as yet that TeamScarborough is prepared to yield its grip on its strategy  that has not only cost the university's " rebranding" effort credibility in far-reaching media coverage, but is driving younger faculty to other universities.  Michigan, for starters.  

Let Coffey finish the thought:
 "It's unrealistic to think that football will ever make money at the University of Akron.  Here is a proposal:  Give students the right to opt-out of athletic fees.  It's their money."

I told him that I admired his courage for rising up from a faculty that, with Larry Snider a notable exception,  has so far been discreetly silent while turning the other cheek.  But he corrected me, saying:  "It shouldn't be courageous to say what is true."

Courage or not, it could be a fresh start.  

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