Saturday, December 12, 2009

Hold on a sec.

OK, so one of the arguments that's often trotted out when debating the merits of pumping money into athletics (at a very low-budget, D3, not-at-all-athletically-accomplished college), excusing students who are struggling with their courses from classes to play sports, and admitting patently unprepared students to the college so that they can play football for a year before dropping out.... Um, let me start over. One of the arguments that's often trotted out when debating the merits of the three above-cited things is that college sports brings in money. Alumni like to come back for Homecoming, and having a successful football (or, I suppose, baseball or soccer or softball) team is likely to get them to chip in a few bucks.

Setting aside for the moment that, at Field, this clearly does not work (our alums love the College but our alumni giving is in the neighborhood of 15%), what usually happens when this argument is raised is that we then begin discussing whether that works given the poverty of our teams, how much alumni actually give, whether we're abiding by the rules of D3 recruiting, etc.

But tonight it occurred to me that this rationale is patently unethical.

If we're talking about the weak students here, and not the ones who can successfully balance academics and athletics--and we are talking about them, because this is my blog--then what we're saying is that it's OK to sucker them into coming to a school for which they are not prepared, getting them to shell out a semester's or a year's worth of tuition, and then depriving them of sufficient academic support by requiring them to attend a battery of practices, weight-training sessions, and games at the (occasional) expense of class attendance and (frequent) expense of study time, all in the service of fundraising.


In what way is this not exploitation?


Fretful Porpentine said...

I don't know, but I'm glad that I'm well out of it in my current job. At VAP School, which is pretty similar to Field in a lot of respects, I thought the whole business was appalling.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Added to that, the author of University Diaries has pretty consistently and thoroughly debunked the profit motive. At all but a few schools, college athletics suck up far more resources than they bring in. Of course, you could say the same about academics, but since we're the point of having a university in the first place, I say: give us the money!

Digger said...

I don't know what the stats are, but how many of these exploited students are not white, and does that add another layer of exploitation as they boost the university's diversity statistics?

heu mihi said...

Digger--well, at my school, most of them are white, but that's because just about everybody around here is white. However, I'd be willing to bet that that's a real (potential) issue at a lot of other places.

I'm not sure why I'm pissed off about this right now, since there's nothing particularly atrocious going on, but it has been an ongoing "discussion" at Field and has caused a fair bit of internal strife. It's pretty gross.

the rebel lettriste said...


Bardiac said...

Totally unethical.

At the first TT job I had, the football team accounted for about 20% of the male students. The recruiting folks counted it as a big help in keeping the gender ratio from being skewed. (For some reason they thought that educating women wasn't as important as educating men... hmmmm, IBTP.)

It's worth looking at football budgets in themselves, since they're often a big part of the Title IX dance.

Louise said...

I have no idea how I stumbled across your blog, but here's my 2 cents. I graduated from a Big 10 school. The STUDENTS had to enter a lottery to get tickets to the basketball games. You got what you got and paid over $200 for the group of tickets you had to totally commit to prior to purchase. Alumni got first pick.

As a result I NEVER went to a basketball game (in the days of Bobby freakin' Knight) and to this day I REFUSE to donate as an alum. Treat me like crap as a student and I'll do the same now when I can afford a block of seats at retail.

That's what I call poor planning.