Track & Field

Graduation will follow finals

Students graduating in spring 2010 will now be able to walk in June’s commencement ceremony knowing they have completed their required courses, because University administrators backed out of a plan to hold the ceremony before spring term final exams.

Students will now turn their tassels June 12, 2010, the date for which commencement was slated before the University announced in December that it would move the ceremony to June 5 to accommodate the NCAA Track & Field Championships scheduled for Hayward Field on June 9-12.

University Provost Jim Bean announced the reversal of the decision Wednesday in an e-mail sent to University employees. Bean was part of the team that made the original scheduling change, citing concerns over hotel availability.

Bean wrote that the decision was reversed because the NCAA might shorten the competition by eliminating qualifying rounds. He also wrote that fewer people than expected attended the USA Track and Field Championships, held at Hayward Field in June, soothing worries about demand for hotels during major track events.

Critics enfiladed the University for the original date change, saying it was an inconvenience to students that would cut into the hours available to take exams. Biology professor Nathan Tublitz went as far as to write a commentary in the Register-Guard saying the move evinced what he called then-University President Dave Frohnmayer’s commitment to athletics at the expense of academics.

“This decision to prioritize athletics over academics, inconveniencing thousands of students and their parents, might have been excusable were it not the latest in a long line of similar decisions,” Tublitz wrote, going on to question Frohnmayer’s salary and, by implication, his integrity in accepting $265,000 in payment from an unnamed donor through the UO Foundation.

Frohnmayer responded with an angry commentary of his own, accusing Tublitz of factual inaccuracies. “This is not just any track meet,” he wrote, “but the NCAA National Championships – an event that will pump millions of dollars into the local economy and is part and parcel of the rich track and field heritage of the UO.”

The response drew national attention, with Frohnmayer criticized by Inside Higher Ed blogger Margaret Soltan, who accused Frohnmayer of a “tendency to twist or try to suppress the truth.”

The revision of the scheduling change came exactly a week after Frohnmayer’s retirement. Tublitz praised the president’s successor, Richard Lariviere, for moving commencement back to its originally scheduled date.

“It definitely augurs for a stronger focus on academics and I’m encouraged,” Tublitz said Saturday. “The new president seems to be a very thoughtful and strongly focused on academics and that’s a very good thing for this campus.”

The NCAA had not announced any plans to curtail the championships as of press time, nor had its representatives responded to the Emerald’s requests for information about plans to curtail the competition.

In contrast to Bean’s downplay of capacity issues, staff at eight campus-area and downtown Eugene hotels said that all their hotel rooms were rented during the USA Track and Field Championships and during most commencement ceremonies. The Holiday Inn is usually booked a year in advance for graduation, a staffer there said. A Red Lion employee said she called hotels in Creswell and Cottage Grove to find rooms after the hotel sold out.

“Usually commencement is, alone, enough to sell out a hotel near the U of O,” Days Inn employee Alaina Harrison said. “I know a lot of hotels are already sold out for the NCAAs.”

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