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Stanford Report, February 11, 1998

Faculty Senate minutes, part II: 2/11/98

Faculty Senate minutes: Feb. 5 meeting


Continued Discussion Concerning Athletics

Chair Conley welcomed Ted Leland, Director of Athletics, Physical Education and Recreation, back to Senate for a continued discussion. Several Senators had pointed out that there had been insufficient time to pose questions to Leland at the January 8th Senate meeting, Conley said. She recognized several guests, who were encouraged to help answer questions, and turned the floor over to Leland.

Leland began by joking, "No, we don't have a kayak team," then said he wanted to address two issues before opening up for questions. Commenting on civility, Leland said he believes the band show at the Notre Dame football game, the melee after Big Game, and the chanting by the Sixth Man Club all reflect badly on Stanford. "I think they make Stanford appear to be mean-spirited . . . and they create some public safety and public comfort issues." Describing himself as a big fan of Stanford students, Leland said that he and his department nonetheless take these things very seriously and are struggling to learn and to teach the right line between acceptable and inappropriate behavior. He welcomed faculty suggestions on how to prevent behavior that crosses the line.

Leland also spoke to a question from Professor McCall (Classics) at the earlier Senate meeting concerning athletic contests during end-quarter and finals weeks. Over the past three years, eight athletic events had been scheduled during end-quarter weeks, he said, most of which were mistakes by the coaches or could be avoided in future. He assured everyone that the department would avoid such scheduling in almost all cases and would continue to apply to C-AAA for any exceptions. McCall said that after pursuing this issue with Leland and the Registrar, he believes there is genuine confusion over the exact definition of the end-quarter policy ­ specifically, is the weekend between end-quarter week and finals week a "legitimate window of opportunity" for scheduling events, as some coaches had previously believed, or does the policy prohibiting mandatory drama, musical, and athletic activities apply continuously to this two-week period including the weekend? McCall urged that the policy be clarified, remarking that he personally felt it was unfair to the athletes to schedule events on the weekend while at the same time prohibiting mandatory practice during the preceding end-quarter week. Registrar Printup agreed that there was some lack of clarity in the policy and said that he would take the matter to C-AAA for review in light of the Senate discussion.

Professor Andersen (Chemistry), remarking that "athletics bring out the best in the athletes but the worst in the fans," questioned whether security at football games was adequate to control the crowds. Citing examples of what he felt were inadequate responses to specific incidents at the Oregon game and at Big Game, Andersen asked whether DAPER was reevaluating the extent and scope of security for large sporting events. Vice Provost Cox advised that security issues had been reviewed extensively since Big Game, and that several recommendations made by Director of Public Safety Marv Herrington would be implemented in future, including having more officers at events like Big Game.

Responding to a question from Howard Loo, student representative at-large, Leland said DAPER is planning to review the policy of reserving seats at basketball games for the Sixth Man Club, looking at issues such as their treatment of opposing teams and the fairness of ticket allocation for all students. Leland observed wryly that the Sixth Man Club had been created two years earlier to help solve the safety issue of students pouring onto the floor after games. Though that problem seems to have lessened, others have arisen, he noted. Professor Taylor (Economics) suggested that tutorial services for athletes might be improved if they were coordinated with some of the larger courses such as Economics 1. Leland said that academic support services for athletes are provided by the Undergraduate Advising Center, which assigns two of its people half-time. He noted that there is a fine line involved between supporting varsity athletes because of the special time demands they face, while not separating them from the rest of the students.

McCall expressed unease about the band having been disciplined for its half-time program at the Notre Dame football game if indeed that program had received prior approval in its details from the Athletics Department. Leland replied that he and his staff had made a mistake in approving the script, but that he also believed it was in the best interests of the university to hold everybody responsible including the band.

McCall asked for Leland's observations, and urged a faculty discussion, about the increasing commercialization of intercollegiate sports, represented for example by the Nike swoosh on most Stanford team uniforms and radio advertisements for a health product "used by Stanford athletes." Leland explained that the Athletics Department has a contract with Nike to provide almost all team uniforms and shoes in return for displaying the Nike swoosh visibly on the uniforms. "Given our funding scheme, some external commercial aspect to Stanford athletics is almost unavoidable," he stated, noting that approximately $2.5 million in annual support for the athletics program comes from corporate sponsorships and advertising. Concern about commercialism is rising, Leland said, among faculty, trustees, the President and Provost, and others, and the department is seeking to achieve an appropriate level and type of corporate relationship. He advised that they are working hard to remove all corporate signage from athletic facilities next year, except that underneath the score boards.

President Casper commented that financial arrangements with providers of athletic gear have always involved discounting, but that what has changed is a new insistence on display of the corporate logo. Voicing his concern about this trend, he indicated that replacing the $2.5 million annual revenue source with permanent endowment would be extremely difficult. Professor Shapiro (Developmental Biology), after first having to have the meaning of the "swoosh" explained to her, rebounded by asking who she could call to get swooshes on their lab coats.

Shifting gears, Koseff thanked Leland for coming twice to Senate and facing up openly and honestly to some hard questions. He also expressed personal congratulations to Leland, his staff, his coaches, and all the student athletes on a clearly outstanding program. "I think it's precisely because of the sensitivity of your department to academic issues and because of the high standards of achievement and conduct you've set that I'm comfortable being such an enthusiastic supporter of Stanford athletics," he stated. Chair Conley voiced appreciation to Leland for both of his Senate visits.

(minutes continued)