Just in time for the first day of classes at many universities, we’re reminded of one of the less admirable aspects of higher education.
Purdue University’s women’s basketball team has been placed on probation for two years because an assistant coach committed academic fraud by helping a student write a term paper. In emails sent to the student, the assistant coach implicated herself in far more than just “helping.” She told the student, “Be sure you reread the paper and make it sound like you” (“Coach Caught By an E-Mail Trail,” http://insidehighered.com/news/2007/08/23/purdue).
In another exchange, the student implicated herself when she said, “Stop cakin’ and finish the paper . . . dang!”
Just this week, the London Times tapped Purdue as one of the Top 200 Universities in the world.
I’m curious whether the professor of the course in question was aware of the student’s work or had any questions about the student’s being able to write the quality of the paper being submitted.
If you teach writing (or if you teach writing within the context of another course), you know that one of the only ways to detect plagiarism and also to help students learn to write is to require drafts and to hold individual student conferences on the drafts.
I’ve had various experiences with student athletes in which there were red flags and intrusions from the Athletic Department. One student had not submitted work and had not shown up at a conference, but the next day an assistant coach was waiting for me in my classroom. He touched my arm and made excuses for the young man, and he followed up with a telephone call. He had also been in touch with other professors and instructors.
That situation did not end well for either the student athlete or the coach.
I don’t know why the assistant coach was so bold, other than the pressure coaches are under to produce wins, and their teams can’t win if students are ineligible.
At another university, I also had underprepared student athletes in some classes, but at that school there was more academic support in place for those students and the athletes seemed to know that they were to do the work, no matter what.
At that school, basketball players were extremely valuable to the school since the team went to the NCAA Sweet 16 finals. Name recognition and increased applications for admissions were only part of what the school gained from having a team in the finals.
Universities bear much of the blame for situations that can sometimes be called academic fraud. Too many athletes for the so-called money sports cannot do university-level work. They need what community colleges offer.
When universities admit students because of the money and fame the students will bring to the school, ethical dilemmas are almost inevitable
Underpaid, overworked instructors or teaching assistants in the lower level courses can’t be expected to redress the missing academic instruction and academic experiences of the underprepared student athlete and at the same time be alert to ferret out fouls from the Athletic Department.