Stadium, March 22, 2012
Dear Students and Colleagues,
OK … this message actually *IS* about the stadium. But I write this with some level of trepidation, despite the fact I usually tend to just write what’s on my mind — without any worry of “over-thinking,” as many of you have pointed out to me over the years!
In all likelihood, you’ve heard that we have a committee looking into whether we should consider building a new stadium somewhere on the main campus, for a whole host of reasons that I won’t recount here. (If you’re curious, you can visit the Stadium Advisory Committee website for more information.)
I’ve held off on writing to campus about this because I worry that anything I say on this topic will have detrimental effects on a discussion that I think already dominates too much of our landscape. If past history is any indication, this message will be seen by some people as proof that my mind has been made up for some time and I’m running a sham process. Other people will likely see this message as demonstrating a fundamental lack of commitment on my part to an important university project. Neither of those points of view reflects my own thinking, and so I have tended to stay away from the topic under the thinking that anything I did would only make it harder for us to have the conversation, deliberation, and analysis we need to have. But, because I want to ask for your help, I find myself wading into the topic.
I need to ask you for three favors. Beginning at the next Stadium Advisory Committee meeting March 29, the various subcommittees that spun off of the Stadium Advisory Committee will be reporting back to the full committee with what amounts to (in my words) a discussion draft — a document designed to stimulate and sustain debate on a topic. This should add a level of specificity in terms of what might best fit in the concept of a stadium, where such a stadium might best be located on our main campus, and if/how we might reasonably see our way to funding such a project without reliance on student or public funding. It’s my hope that such a level of specificity allows us — as a campus community — to move to a second phase of discussion on whether we should pursue the specific action steps needed to actually build such a stadium (this is the decision point I hope to reach soon after the committee’s recommendation near the end of this semester). Many of you have been providing feedback during this initial phase of our discussions on the concept more generally — and I thank you for that.
Your engagement with the Center for Public Deliberation (CPD) is very useful in helping me understand the complexity of viewpoints that surround the issue. In fact, the CPD has background information on the wide range of opinions people have expressed about the stadium concept in general, and the link to that information is http://www.cpd.colostate.edu/backgrounder.pdf.
I hope you’ll take time to understand each other’s points of view and also to learn something about the specifics of the stadium that are evolving out of the work of the subcommittees. There appears to be a large number of people who feel there is no additional information they need to arrive at a position on the stadium, and that worries me a bit as I’m not sure how we can be making informed decisions without the kind of information we are still in the process of collecting.
In any case, if you have time and the inclination, look through the CPD backgrounder and the material that will be posted to the Stadium Committee’s website coming out of the subcommittees. I think that’s likely to be helpful in moving us from conceptual debate to factual deliberation in the next stage of our discussion.
And so my first favor is to ask you either to become or to stay engaged in providing input during the month of April, once we have a discussion draft to focus on. Earlier this week, you probably received an email asking you to participate in a survey on the stadium. I hope, particularly after there is more information available about the subcommittee recommendations, you’ll consider filling out the survey. I’d really like to understand the spectrum and distribution of opinion here, and this would be a help. The surveys were designed by the subcommittee on Alumni, Campus and Public Engagement in conjunction with the CPD. Survey results will be made public via the Stadium Advisory Committee and CPD’s website, where they’re also posting the feedback they’ve gathered through various instruments and forums. Thanks in advance.
My second favor is to ask you to celebrate the discussion around the stadium in the spirit of academic freedom. If public debate, by at least one definition, can be seen as the active pursuit of collective knowledge, then I would argue it falls directly under the umbrella of the academic freedoms we cherish. We ought to celebrate the right of a member of the CSU community to write the university president and call him a fool for having not built the stadium already and the right of that person’s neighbor to write the university president and call him an imbecile for even considering it. Although I might wish they both focused less on the university president’s IQ, the ability to express such opinions freely as part of an open discussion in an academic community is something to celebrate. And I’d ask those of you who feel passionately about this topic — in both directions — to treat each other with civility. If you feel the uncontrollable urge to write a flaming e-mail, well, you know my address. Use that. But please treat your colleagues and peers well; their views are as valuable as yours.
Now I’ll end with a paradoxical favor #3: let’s keep our focus and perspective. Having just asked you to pay attention to this topic and taken (if you actually made it this far) 5 minutes of your life that I can’t give back to you, it’s odd for me now to downplay the topic. But this topic can apparently become consuming. As we’ve gone through the past 3 years, 4 months, and 18 days that I’ve been in this office (who’s counting, really?), we’ve dealt with the worst budget crisis of our lifetimes, struggled with the on-going privatization of American public higher education, dealt with a potential infectious disease pandemic, had an active debate about gun control, set a major goal for improving graduation rates, set records in any number of areas, finished our first campaign, refocused on our access mission, and fought the too-silent battle with the epidemic of teen suicide (which we’ve too often lost, leaving families and our campus community with wounds that are extraordinarily hard to heal). Yet nothing — nothing — has generated as much engagement as this topic. And, judging from the scathing letters written when President Morgan built Hughes Stadium, this is not unique to our day. For whatever reason, stadiums are a topic that captures attention far beyond (in my opinion) the gravity and importance of the topic itself.
So while I’ll ask you to participate in and celebrate the debate about the topic, I’ll close with a plea: Let’s not lose our focus.
We are a university — a community of scholars dedicated to teaching and learning, discovery and creativity, application and our collective society’s well-being. We are amazingly good at what we do. As important as athletics can be to our campus and student life — and I believe they are — they’re not our reason for being, and we must never lose that perspective.
Thanks for reading, and thanks in advance for your thoughts and perspectives as we move forward. Have a great second half of the semester.
Dr. Tony Frank