By In Applied Ethics Comments (3)

The Place of Sports in the Academy

This post can also be found here.

“As previously acknowledged by the Office of the Vice Chancellor and Provost, student/athletes are obligated to meet both their academic and athletic commitments. It is possible that required competition may occasionally conflict with class schedules and/or other academic responsibilities. We would appreciate your assistance in providing the student with an opportunity to complete any assignments, exams, and/or projects that will be missed during their absence from your course.

Amongst the things I find remarkably disheartening about this letter is that:

  • It equates a student’s obligation to attend her classes with her obligation to play sporting events.
  • It suggests this view is shared all the way up the university hierarchy.
  • It somehow avoids considering the option that the athletic obligations should be constructed so that the students can meet their primary academic obligations.
  • It treats it as going without saying that when the obligations to academics and athletics conflict, the student will be missing class. And it asks professors to take on the burden of accommodating students whose sports draw them away from class.

Most know that the devotion to athletics have gotten well out of hand in higher education in the United States. Nonetheless I would urge us to at least pay lip service to the idea that the primary point of a university continues to be academic and not athletic.

I would urge the “academic side” of the university to send its own letter to the athletics department. It might read:

“As previously acknowledged by the Office of the Vice Chancellor and Provost, student/athletes are obligated to meet both their academic and athletic commitments. It is possible that required examinations and class attendance may occasionally conflict with athletic schedules and/or other athletic responsibilities. We would appreciate your assistance in providing the student with an opportunity to complete any practices and competitions that will be missed during their absence from your events.”

 

3 Responses to The Place of Sports in the Academy

  1. David Shoemaker says:

    I am curious: I occasionally get such letters from directors of other extracurricular programs such as Model U.N. competitions (or perhaps an Ethics Bowl). Is your complaint directed exclusively to the athletic absences, or all such (extracurricular) absences?

  2. David Sobel says:

    Good and helpful question. Let me mull while teaching 400 youths.

  3. David Sobel says:

    I acknowledge I would likely be less bothered by the sort of requests you mention. Part of what seems to me different is just the scale of the the problem in the case of athletics. But certainly a big part of what bothered me in the actual case was the language of the note I repeatedly get sent about such athletic reasons for absence from class which seemed to state, with administrative support, the equal legitimacy of concerns for academics and concerns for athletics. If the admin says that from the point of view of the University the demands of the model UN are on a par with the demands of attending class, and that I am expected to accommodate students who miss class for such reasons, then I would again get grumpy.