When the University of Montana's Homecoming Parade rolls down Higgins Avenue on Saturday morning, the festivities will surely be full of pride, pompoms and impressive floats paying homage to Griz Nation. Campus will look exquisite in its fall colors. Alumni will hear that the school just set another enrollment record. And before 25,000-plus pour into Washington-Grizzly Stadium for kickoff against Cal Poly, many will gawk at the new law school building, the new journalism building and the ongoing construction of the impressive Native American Center—all of which give the appearance that everything's rosy at our beloved UM.
But while the homecoming theme this year may be "Sweet Home Montana," plenty of unsavory developments threaten to rain on this weekend's festivities.
Just ask university employees, who for six out of the last 10 years haven't seen a salary increase. Bargaining between the Montana University System (MUS) and its teachers recently reached a standstill after MUS showed little willingness to negotiate, despite receiving a 5 percent increase in state funding, a 3 percent tuition increase on the two major campuses and an 8.5 percent increase for out-of-state tuition. There are even rumors of a potential faculty strike.
Then, as the New York Times made all too clear in a recent column, UM not only underpays, but also underperforms. David Leonhardt specifically called out UM as an example of a "failure factory." The term refers to underachieving institutions with high dropout rates; the state says UM only sees 42 percent of its students graduate over a typical six-year period. (see "Crash course" on page 9 for more information.)
And then there's our not-so-unassailable football team, arguably the centerpiece of this weekend's celebration. Last month, Kaimin reporter Tyson Alger uncovered the latest alleged assault by Griz football players, the third consecutive year players have been implicated in off-the-field violence. The incident almost slipped entirely under the radar, with head coach Bobby Hauck refusing to acknowledge the report with the media and handling it with a vague "in-house" investigation. His actions follow two disturbing patterns: the administration's preference to sweep serious football-related indiscretions under the rug, and the fact that indiscretions are now an annual occurrence under Hauck's watch.
But, um, Go Griz!, right?
Listen, we hate to be party poopers before one of the year's most celebratory weekends, but recent developments require a sober look at UM's immediate future. Those paying attention to more than the scoreboard may realize jeers are more appropriate than cheers right now.