Year in Review: Top 5 Stories of ’08-’09

Laura Welch

Men’s basketball team reaches Final Four

Most wins in a single-season in school history. First appearance in the Final Four since 1985. National recognition and a new-found sense of pride.

The list of the men’s basketball team’s accomplishments in March and April of 2009 goes on and on.

Led by Big East Coach of the Year Jay Wright, the magical run began in the familiar confines of the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia, where No. 3-seeded Villanova overcame a 14-point second-half deficit to defeat No. 14-seeded American. The ‘Cats followed their lackluster effort with a 20-point victory over the historic UCLA Bruins.

As campus and the national media began to recognize the efforts of the team, hundreds of students flocked to Boston to witness the Wildcats crushing 23-point defeat of Duke in the Sweet 16.

‘Nova continued to shine with a game-winning shot by junior guard Scottie Reynolds to edge out No.1-seeded Pittsburgh in the Elite Eight to advance to the Final Four.

As Reynolds sunk his full-court drive, Villanova’s campus erupted in a fury that included the closing of Lancaster Avenue and a buzz on the Main Line that would last well beyond the end of the historical run.

A week after the victory over Pitt, even more students traveled to Detroit to witness the revered ‘Cats taking on powerhouse North Carolina. For the fourth time in five years, Villanova saw itself losing to the eventual National Champions, falling to the Tar Heels in the semifinals by 14. Despite the loss, the senior class of Dwayne Anderson, Shane Clark, Dante Cunningham and Frank Tchuisi finished with a school-record 102nd career win, well-above the previous mark of 95 set by the Class of ’97.

The Wildcats finished the season ranked No. 4 overall in the final ESPN/USA Today poll; however, the team accomplished much more than its 30 victories. They gained national attention, media coverage, University pride, and also provided a year that all of those involved could forever hang their hats on.

Economy impacts University

In the midst of a global economic downturn, Villanova implemented several conservative measures during the ’08-’09 school year to ensure its safe financial standing.

Prior to course registration in the fall semester, tighter budgets forced the College of Arts and Sciences to drop about 20 classes offered the previous year.

In March, the University employed a hiring freeze for an indefinite amount of time in addition to a restriction on salary increases through 2010.

University President Rev. Peter M. Donohue, O.S.A., said that the measures were preventative.

“We are in a good place right now, and we need to stay in that place,” Donohue said in March.

Despite the tough economic times, the annual tuition increase was the lowest it had been in over 30 years, at just 3.5 percent.

To further help families affected by the crisis, there will be a 9 percent increase in need-based financial aid funds for next year.

The endowment suffered a 25 percent decline this year. The decrease, however, is not likely to hinder the University’s financial stability because Villanova is a largely tuition-based institution.

This past February, the U.S. unemployment rate hit 8.1 percent, and businesses throughout the country cut 651,000 jobs, resulting in fewer opportunities for graduating seniors.

Villanova School of Business Dean James Danko investigated the roots of the economic problem in an article that appeared in the March 9 issue of BusinessWeek. In the article, Danko calls for a stronger emphasis on ethics as part of a business curriculum.

Students participate in historic election

While John McCain and Barack Obama fought to win the presidency, Villanova students fought to end a reputation for political apathy.

In a random poll of more than 600 undergraduate students conducted a week prior to the Nov. 4 election, 87.8 percent of students indicated that they planned to vote and 52.6 percent intended to vote for Obama.

The top issues for students were the economy, health care, the Iraq War and abortion. College Democrats and College Republicans were widely visible on campus preceding Nov. 4.

Both groups encouraged students to register to vote by Pennsylvania’s voter registration deadline, Oct. 6.

The two organizations also held a debate on Oct. 1 to raise awareness about the election and impart their views on the issues.

Villanova’s campus was split into four different voting districts, all of which could be reached by SGA shuttles on Election Day.

The youth vote turned out to be a vital factor in Obama’s victory, with 75 percent of voters age 18-29 voting for Obama.

On Jan. 20, the historic Presidential Inauguration resonated with Villanova students in a way no previous inauguration had before.

For the first time in the University’s history, there was Villanova-sponsored transportation to Washington, D.C. on the morning of the inauguration.

CAT, SGA and the Multicultural Students League all sponsored shuttles.

Many professors canceled classes that fell during Obama’s inaugural address.

Students attended an Inauguration watch party on campus, and three professors spoke to an audience of students and faculty at the Inauguration Day Panel in Connelly Center on that historic Tuesday.

Senior Sinead Cloughley, who traveled to Washington D.C. to see the inauguration said, “Celebrating our new President was an experience I wouldn’t have missed for the world.”

Site encourages gossip

Gossip seems harmless until it finally hits home. This was the case for many Villanova students when the open message board arrived on the Main Line in the fall of 2008.

The presence of Juicy Campus caused an uproar among students, faculty and administrators. Several threads alone on Villanova’s board had gained thousands of views and dozens of posts that contained gossip information ranging from the sexual history of students to the stereotypes of different organizations. These anonymous, hate-filled messages hit the Villanova community hard; threats of lawsuits surfaced among the tainted reputations and hurt feelings of many students.

More notable than its shock value and devastating words was the popularity it garnered around campus. Seemingly all students and community members were aware of the new site, making its words that much more widespread and powerful. Adding to the issue was the University’s lack of power in the matter.

In the fall, Associate Vice President for Student Life Kathy Byrnes told The Villanovan, “If we blocked the site from campus, it wouldn’t mean the site didn’t exist.”

As a result, the Web site remained intact and continued to hurt those who were the topics of numerous threads. Fortunately for students and the University, the phenomenon faded away towards the end of the fall semester and became an afterthought for the community.

On Feb. 5, 2009, the Web site officially shut down, putting an end to the harm that afflicted many universities, including Villanova.

Coca-Cola replaces Pepsi

Santa came early for Villanova Coca-Cola-lovers this past school year. On Dec. 22, the University officially announced that all beverages on campus would feature Coca-Cola products starting in January, replacing the Pepsi products offered for the last several years.

“Access to a wide variety of products is important to our students, and Coca-Cola brings to our campus an extensive selection of beverage products for our students to enjoy,” said Timothy Dietzler, Director of Dining Services for Villanova University.

Villanova’s contract with the beverage company made Coca-Cola an official sponsor and partner of Villanova University Athletics, adding to the University’s long list of corporate sponsors that support it financially.

All new Coca-Cola vending machines and fountain dispensers were installed in January.