|Dean Bresciani, NDSU president|
And yet the seeds were being planted for the ethos of today. The ethos of today is one of greed and self-centerdness. Now that I've said this, fingers get pointed: I'm naive and unrealistic about life. If we don't get paid a certain amount for every bit of labor we expend on something, we're foolish and unrealistic.
Bernie Sanders challenges on this. Why can't the broad public make sure that young people attend college without picking up an unreasonable debt burden? Why not eliminate the college debt completely? Oh, but we're not expected to get something for nothing. It is immature to suggest that the contrary could be true, it is said.
"Business majors" started taking over the world. These are young people who have wrapped their arms around systems that maximize profit. Of course, maximizing profit can mean learning how to take advantage of people (i.e. screw people). We have the exhibit of the 2008 financial crisis. We seem to have learned little from that.
My generation seems to have largely taken credit for the "tea party." I knew that term would be discarded in due time. It was. Our self-centered and materialistic ethos caused our impulses to degenerate so far, we now have Donald Trump as the candidate of one of our two major parties. It used to be that Republicans were conservative but also believed in governing. Governing means reaching compromise and consensus with your fellow lawmakers sometimes. Those who fashion themselves as conservatives just want to throw bricks around now. Thomas Frank calls this "the wrecking crew," the name of a book he wrote about what happens when conservatives get enough power to really hold forth.
North Dakota State gives us case study
There's a nice current case study of what happens when business majors are allowed to assert themselves. It comes to us from North Dakota State University, that bastion of academia in the vast barren reaches of North Dakota. Actually it has a football program that can beat our U of M Gophers. So does University of South Dakota in Madison. I couldn't have imagined this when I was a kid. NDSU feels its oats by being able to come to the Twin Cities in Minnesota and vanquish our "beloved rodents," as Patrick Reusse refers to our Gophers.
NDSU has developed a sense of really needing to market its product or its "brand." Beware of these whipper-snappers who come into an organization talking about "brand" and "branding." It's another buzzword like "tea party."
Remember when our U of M-Morris had a football program that really impressed people with its "brand?" That was before we would have used the word "brand." UMM reached the heights at one time. Then things unraveled. We remedied that by joining a bottom-tier conference. Seriously, I think everyone is happy with UMM athletics now. But it's not a product with marketing potential. NDSU indeed feels its oats and it protects a product that presents real value. It's just that those business major types have gotten carried away.
A recent episode in Bison country can be viewed as Exhibit 'A' of our excessively materialistic contemporary ethos. Everything has a price. A news article dated July 29 announced that NDSU was putting new restrictions on media access for Bison athletics. The official spokesman for this was a guy whose title is director of sales and broadcasting. "Brrrr, scary," Count Floyd of the old SCTV would say.
We've got a sales specialist calling the shots. This guy, Jeremy Jorgenson, has the proper jargon down on what he was attempting to foist on North Dakotans: "We're just trying to protect our rights holders and protect ourselves," he continued, dropping the 'B' word: "We've grown so much that we need to protect our brand."
The news report went on to list a whole bunch of dispiriting restrictions imposed on media outlets that do not have NDSU broadcast rights agreements (i.e. outlets that didn't fork over the money to the school). My, those deprived outlets wouldn't even be allowed to do one-on-one interviews with the head football or basketball coaches on radio, TV or Internet in season without the written consent of NDSU! Media outlets must request all interviews with these coaches and all players 24 hours in advance, the guidelines stated.
Hold up a mirror, maybe?
Maybe we, the public, are at fault, going to the trough to relish the sport of football so much. We are waiting for our attitudes to change about this, just as we waited patiently for the day when smoking would be disallowed in all public places.
It is amazing that NDSU has risen to the level where it could show such chutzpah. My generation when young paid attention to the U of M Gophers. We could not have cared less about what happened in places like Fargo and Grand Forks. If we were to even play those schools, it would be as faux scrimmages in pre-season. Now we can lose to them, while at the same time our U falls into scandal after scandal and fritters away what appears to be huge amounts of money. What's wrong? Doesn't the U of M have "business majors" watching over things?
Well, our financial crisis of 2008 happened in spite of more than one generation of "business majors" having crept into the world. These are guys who master "the deal." They are also forced in many cases to take "ethics classes." Why are formal studies in ethics needed? You should just grow up with a proper grasp of right versus wrong. You should just go to church. Go to church potlucks and have red Jello.
The July 29 news report from Fargo shared that "limiting some media opportunities to their media rights holders allows NDSU the opportunity to earn more money in return."
A very prompt reversal
On August 2 there was another news report. Hoo boy, I would have loved to be a fly on the wall as all this transpired. We can be relieved that good triumphed over evil (or stupidity). In other words, those "business majors" got put in their place. Let's hear it for theology and history majors. Let's hear it for non-smokers.
NDSU cut to the chase in the first sentence: "North Dakota State University athletics' controversial rules that would have limited access for media outlets that didn't have a deal with the university will be rescinded." Those "deals" will be buried and light will be let in.
NDSU President Dean Bresciani directed the athletics department to ditch the guidelines it issued days earlier. He wasn't informed in advance of the guidelines, the university said. Holy mackerel. We have a little institutional dysfunction here. Certain people aren't going to be on speaking terms for a while. The head of the university with his basic sense of wisdom, outside of business classes on the campus, hesitated not a bit asserting his judgment.
Bresciani said "I was profoundly disappointed when I learned the facts about this issue. This is not the way NDSU treats local journalists and our many loyal fans who value the breadth of news coverage NDSU enjoys. As the state's land grant university, out commitment is to access and inclusion in all endeavors."
The athletic director apologized. Matt Larsen said he "regretted the damage this has caused to the administration, institution and university community."
The broader question
Maybe the day will come when the public turns away from football, realizing we cannot sacrifice the health of so many young men just for our entertainment. We'll turn our backs, hopefully, the way we finally came down on smoking. As I have written before, maybe a sport that is too dangerous for girls is too dangerous for everyone.
Wouldn't it be wonderful if so few students came out for football this fall, our University of Minnesota-Morris could just eliminate the program? We may not be quite there yet.