National groups review academic integrity reform

Thomas Douty

In the wake of the Friday’s administrative changes, college-sports reformers are pushing for radical measures to ensure academic integrity across the country.
Jon Ericson, a Drake University professor of rhetoric and communications, is heading an effort to shake up the sports establishment. Along with university scholars and media representatives, Ericson is a member of the National Association for College Athletic Reform.
The reform group formed in late October at a Drake conference, “College Sports Corruption: The Way Out.” Sports administrators and professors proposed a series of changes designed to shift power away from athletics.
One of the more controversial proposals involves disclosing student-athletes’ courses.
By making the information public, faculty members would not feel pressured to speak out against the easy course loads taken by some student-athletes, Ericson said.
But Craig Swan, University vice provost for undergraduate education, said disclosing courses would violate students’ privacy rights in Minnesota. Under the state’s Data Practices Act, only information such as addresses, majors, degrees and student awards are considered public.
But by publicizing currently private information, reformers say student-athletes’ struggles to achieve GPAs necessary to maintain athletic eligibility would become obvious.
Richard Purple, a University physiology professor and former member of the Assembly Committee of Intercollegiate Athletics, attended the Drake conference. He said disclosure would help administrators detect academic misconduct much more quickly.
“(Athletics departments) don’t care really whether athletes get the education or not,” Purple said. “They keep them eligible so they can win.”
If certain “easy” professors attract athletes on the edge of eligibility, an academic audit committee should investigate, he said.
Purple said former academic counselor Alonzo Newby targeted professors who were sympathetic to student-athletes struggling with academics. If those courses and instructors were a part of the public record, they would be more accountable, Purple said.
Ericson said some student-athletes enroll in junior college for two years because they can’t meet the requirements of Division I universities. He said some players don’t attempt to improve academically.
“That’s the myth. They go there and play basketball for two years,” he said.
He said colleges and universities have to take drastic measures to restore academic credibility.
Ericson said other reform movements have not yet succeeded for one reason.
“Not a single one goes behind the closed door to expose what’s happening,” he said. “Until the faculty and academic administrators, including the president, are willing to disclose the junior-college transcripts and the courses taken by students who participate in athletics to the public, the exploitation and hypocrisy will continue,” Ericson said.
But he admits he has a long road ahead of him.
“Disclosure isn’t going to come until it gets so erroneous, so absolutely disgusting that finally people agree it’s the only way to face it,” he said.

Thomas Douty welcomes comments at [email protected] He can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3223.