The NY Times is reporting that (gasp) athletes at Auburn University have been getting great grades without having to go to class.
One of the university’s prominent football players was being honored as a scholar athlete for his work as a sociology major. Professor Gundlach, the director of the Auburn sociology department, had never had the player in class. He asked two other full-time sociology professors about the player, and they could not recall having taught him, either.
So Professor Gundlach looked at the player’s academic files, which led him to the discovery that many Auburn athletes were receiving high grades from the same professor for sociology and criminology courses that required no attendance and little work.
. . .
The availability of better grades for some athletes who did not attend class did not surprise professors who said Auburn sometimes emphasizes athletics at any cost. In December 2003, the university was placed on probation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools partly because of concerns about whether trustees had too much involvement in the athletic department.
. . .
Professor Gundlach took the case to John Heilman, a university administrator who would soon become Auburn’s provost. He included paperwork showing that Professor Petee taught more than 250 students individually during the 2004-5 academic year. He also provided Mr. Heilman with examples of how prominent athletes had cut academic corners.
“It was at that point that I figured the corruption runs the full gantlet of the administration,” Professor Gundlach said. “We were getting sociology majors graduating without taking sociology classes. I’m a director of a program putting out people who I know more than likely don’t deserve a degree.”
It reads like something from Tom Wolfe’s I Am Charlotte Simmons. I’ve been oblivious to this sort of thing, since I’m not a sports fan. There was a similar scandal at the University of Georgia around the time I had a temporary position there in 1985. (Oh my! That’s over 20 years ago. Some of the students I taught then could have kids going to college soon. I really am middle-aged. No! No!)
This one problem we don’t have at private liberal-arts colleges like DePauw, where I teach. We are in a division (III? IV? XXIX?) where we don’t give athletic scholarships and the football players and even the cello students can read and write.
The violists, well, I’m not sure about them. (Ouch! Just kidding.)