Viewpoint: Seniors have better gift options than football stadium fund

By Nick Dean
Guest Columnist

As dramatic as I am, I will need you all to bear with me for the following hyperbole:

If my graduating class votes to give our senior class gift to a new football stadium, I will do my very best to delay graduation.

Now, that isn’t true. I have things to do and don’t need to wallow around Waco. But the excessive nature of that statement is the only way I could truly express how I feel about having the new football stadium as an option for the Class of 2012 senior gift.

The other options are:

A memorial to Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans

An actually eternal flame atop the Immortal Ten statue

An endowed scholarship fund

Arguably all three of these options are better than “being the first class to fundraise for the new football stadium,” and here’s why.

War veterans take precedence over football players. (And if you’re a football player who also serves America’s armed forces, you win.) Honestly though, as much entertainment value and national image wealth our football players bring our school, it is nothing compared to the lives sacrificed in war.

Our soldiers are the very people keeping us safe. Regardless of mine or anyone else’s personal beliefs on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, you can’t argue with the death tolls. The dedication and hard work our football players put into bettering their athletic prowess is admirable, but it doesn’t parallel fighting for America.

That truth rings true for our current win-lose record. I would give up all eight football wins to get eight soldiers’ lives back.

To be clear, I don’t think our football players are saying they are better than soldiers. I would even guess some of the seniors on the team would vote for something else besides the new stadium funding.

This isn’t about if the football players are good enough guys to get a new stadium. This has absolutely nothing to do with our athletic director, coaching staff or players. It’s about something more.

We have this innate desire to be a “tier one school” with a Christian twist. Well, how about we let the Christian ideals take precedence for a change? Let’s put athletics and pride aside. Let’s be Baylor Faithful, not Baylor Proud.

Instead of attracting people with shiny, large multimillion-dollar buildings, let’s show them the side of Baylor I am always defending – the faithful side.

As a senior class, I think we do that in three ways: a war veteran memorial, reinstating the eternal flame that we are responsible for extinguishing or making college a tangible choice for future Bears through a scholarship. We should leave our mark on the Baylor tradition by showing future classes that we took the time to pay tribute to soldiers, the Baylor family or future students.

The part of Baylor that brought me to this school had nothing to do with a building and everything to do with the people. I’m a snap-app attendee, like most, and I didn’t take that much time deciding between colleges. I knew a few Bears that graduated from my high school years before me. Most of them had character traits I admired: faith, intelligence, kindness.

As a senior, I look back and realize that my decision to attend Baylor wasn’t all that haphazard. I innately knew my aspirations, and I saw how Baylor fit into that because as much as I like to rant about decisions my school makes, I love it here and I will never regret my decision to attend.

Many staff members, professors and students have fundamentally altered my life for the better, and there are numerous seniors who would echo that sentiment.

I don’t think my words in the school paper will stop us from building a new football stadium. Indeed, it shouldn’t. I’m not looking to halt plans for a new stadium.

I hope my appeal for this year’s senior class to direct its gift away from the stadium is at least considered. A new football stadium will make our campus look great. But this decision isn’t about what our campus will look like – it’s about how the Class of 2012 wants to be remembered and what we want to leave behind.

Senior gifts, while not life-changing or magnanimous, say something about the students who were here for each one.

I’m voting for the eternal flame on the Immortal Ten statue for several reasons:

1. We owe it to the classes behind us because we are the class that let violence end a tradition. I would rather not be remembered that way. Also, the Immortal Ten statue is something that brings all of Baylor back to what matters: the students. The way our school surrounded those families of the ten we lost is one of the best examples of Jesus, who helped those in need.

2. It is the most tangible way to express how I feel about the Class of 2012, which is that it is a group of dedicated students who saw that Baylor has its own place in the realm of academia and whose contributions will forever impact this school for the better.

3. The flame symbolizes something every incoming student needs to realize: we are all in this together. Baylor has many hurdles to jump in the years ahead. We have a Vision 2012 statement to answer, and we will have to set up our road map for the future. The flame, which represents all of Baylor Nation, is the perfect way for our class to remind everyone that regardless of what we face, we are still one school bonded together by the roots of founders committed to Christianity, faith and learning.

My vote doesn’t have to be your vote. But your vote should be a sign of how you viewed your time at Baylor. Paying tribute to those lost in the wars that began in our generation, to the flame that represents all of the Baylor family or even to future Baylor Bears seem like great ways to leave our mark.

Adding dollars to a football stadium fund just doesn’t seem like enough to me.

If you know the trend of collegiate sports, the money for that new stadium will appear one way or another.

Nick Dean is a senior journalism and political science major from Austin and a former Lariat editor in chief.