Athletics vs Academics Cartoon

In late July, LSU Football’s Twitter posted pictures announcing its $28 million newly renovated football operations building. Predictably, any and all social scenes flew into chaos. If you went to the University, are an alumna, or even just grew up in Louisiana, you couldn’t look anywhere without seeing a mention of it.

Of course, there was the typical debate about the University treasuring athletics more than academics. I’m not sure about the accuracy of that statement, but I will say from an outsider’s view, University administration doesn’t even seem to care whether or not I have a professor to learn from.

What really heated up the debates was the comparison between the operations building and many of the buildings on campus, including the infamous Middleton Library, which has been planned for demolition for several years.

I found none of this shocking. Let’s be clear: Any rational and unbiased University student can acknowledge the obvious differences in treatment of academics and athletics. However, what I found most shocking was the sheer number of people willing to defend the University or the athletic department. From comments about the revenue the athletic department brings in to University athletes attacking professors on social media, it was a travesty.

In a state that ranks dead last in the country and is No. 49 in education, perhaps it shouldn’t have been a surprise. However, since only 30% of Louisiana’s population is college-educated, you would think the largest university in the state would be obsessive about the quality of education being presented to its students.

It’s one thing to know the state doesn’t value education. It’s another thing to experience it.

I do not disagree with athletics deserving nice things, but I definitely do not think academics has any place on the back-burner because of it.

Perhaps it slipped everyone’s mind, but the University is an academic institution first. If anything were to jeopardize our standing as a university, sports would be the furthest thing from administrators’ minds. Besides the athletes themselves, the rest of our more than 30,000 student population are there solely for an education. Too many times, the University’s name has become synonymous with our sports teams, rather than our academic excellence.

I love the University, and I feel a sense of belonging on campus that has always reassured me of my place there. However, I’ve questioned whether or not I would be better off somewhere else. From friends and family members alike, I’ve seen how other universities in this state treat their students. From having academic programs ensuring their success to getting internships all over the country and the world, they’ve never felt a lack of support from their university. Sure, their athletic teams are not as revered as ours, but that’s not an excuse, no matter how many times it’s used.

Our “rival,” the University of Alabama, has five libraries. All of the them are in great condition, as I witnessed and learned this past summer during a stint there. The campus has an even higher enrollment count with a championship-winning football team, yet its students aren’t suffering because of it. There’s also a parking spot for every single student who purchases a parking pass, but that’s neither here nor there.

The crux of the matter is that the University has dropped the ball in regard to academics. Departments are underfunded, there’s a limited number of spaces in non-STEM classes and students are drowning. The University recently made headlines for having some of the highest graduate student fees in the country. Our academic advisers are great, but on a campus so big, it can be incredibly hard to get an appointment you actually need it. Our professors are amazing, but in a country, and especially state, that doesn’t value education, they’re underpaid. Our buildings are disgusting, old and rotting away. This has been their constant state for decades.

I am reluctant to pin these issues on one individual person, on one department or on one area of the University. Truth be told, it’s none of those things. There are so many factors that play into the gross oversights the students at the University suffer, all of which should be rectified.

The University is the largest higher learning institution in a state that has made it abundantly clear how little it values education. We don’t need to do the same.

Maya Stevenson is a 20-year-old English and Philosophy junior from Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

In late July, LSU Football's twitter posted pictures announcing its $28 million newly renovated locker room. Predictably, any and all social scenes flew into chaos. If you went to the University, were an alumna, or even just grew up in Louisiana, you couldn’t look anywhere without seeing a mention of it.

Of course, there was the typical debate about the University treasuring athletics more than academics. I’m not sure about the accuracy of that statement, but I will say from an outsider’s view, University administration doesn’t even seem to care whether or not I have a professor to learn from.

What really heated up the debates was the comparison between the locker room and many of the buildings on campus, including the infamous Middleton Library, which has been planned to be demolished for several years.

I found none of this shocking. Let’s be clear: Any rational and unbiased University student can acknowledge the obvious differences in treatment of academics and athletics. However, what I found most shocking was the sheer number of people willing to defend the University or the athletic department. From comments about the revenue the athletic department brings in to University athletes attacking professors on social media, it was a travesty.

In a state that ranks dead last in the country and is No. 49 in education, perhaps it shouldn’t have been a surprise. However, since only 30% of Louisiana’s population is college-educated, you would think the largest university in the state would be obsessive with the quality of education being presented to its students.

It’s one thing to know the state doesn’t value education, but it’s another thing to experience it.

I don’t disagree with athletics deserving nice things, but I definitely don’t think academics has any place on the back-burner because of it.

Perhaps it slipped everyone’s mind, but the University is an academic institution first. If anything were to jeopardize our standing as a university, sports would be the furthest thing from administrators' minds. Besides the athletes themselves, the rest of our more than 30,000 student population are there solely for an education. Too many times, the University’s name has become synonymous with our sports teams, rather than our academic excellence.

I love the University, and I feel a sense of belonging on campus that has always reassured me of my place there. However, I’ve questioned whether or not I would be better off somewhere else. From friends and family members alike, I’ve seen how other universities in this state treat its students. From having academic programs ensuring their success to getting internships all over the country and the world, they’ve never felt a lack of support from their university. Sure, their athletic teams are not as revered as ours, but that's not an excuse, no matter how many times it’s used. 

Our “rival,” the University of Alabama, has five libraries. All of the them are in great condition, as I witnessed and learned this past summer during a stint there. Their campus has an even higher enrollment count with a championship-winning team, yet their students aren’t suffering because of it. There’s also a parking spot for every single student who purchases a parking pass, but that’s neither here nor there.

The crux of the matter is that the University has dropped the ball in regard to academics. Departments are underfunded, there’s a limited number of spaces in non-STEM classes and students are drowning. The University recently made headlines for having some of the highest graduate student fees in the country. Our academic advisers are great, but on a campus so big, it can be incredibly hard to get an appointment in the window you actually need it. Our professors are amazing, but in a country, and especially state, that doesn’t value education, they’re underpaid. Our buildings are disgusting, old and rotting away. This has been their constant state for decades.

I am reluctant to pin these issues on one individual person, on one department or on one area of the University. Truth be told, it’s none of those things. There are so many factors that play into the gross oversights the students at the University suffer, all of which should be rectified.

The University is the largest higher learning institution in a state that has made it abundantly clear how little it values education. We don’t need to do the same.

Maya Stevenson is a 20-year-old English and Philosophy junior from Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

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