Thursday, September 21, 2006

Celebrating Ignorance

Today's N&O brings news of a positive suggestion from Duke law professor Paul Haagen. Seeking to bridge the gap between the athletics program and the arts and sciences faculty, Haagen proposes creating athletic "faculty associates," professors who would be assigned, on a voluntary basis, to various sports teams to get a better sense of campus athletics. The professor could attend practice, get to know the players and coaches, and even travel with the team to selected road games. Haagen told the N&O he wanted to create a situation where professors knew more about athletics.

Women's lacrosse coach Kerstin Kimel strongly endorsed the plan, correctly noting, "There isn't a real tremendous understanding from a faculty standpoint about what our athletes and coaches do day to day."

The Haagen plan would seem to have no downside. Professors who desired to do so could get a first-hand glimpse of the "culture" of Duke athletic teams. I have no doubt that most would discover what I learned from watching my sister, who was a three-year starter and two-year captain of Columbia's women's basketball team: that at academically elite institutions, most athletes work much harder than the average student. They need to balance a full courseload with the physical, mental, and time commitments of sports.

Reaction to Haagen's proposal suggests that some Duke professors prefer to celebrate their ignorance about the true nature of life for the institution's student-athletes: after all, what they discover might contradict their preconceived ideological notions. Group of 88 member Paula McClain, co-director of Duke's "Center for Gender, Ethnicity, and Race in the Social Sciences," announced that the professors to whom she speaks (presumably the Group of 88's other 87 members) "are just aghast" about the idea.

But, then again, McClain has distinguished herself throughout the crisis for her reflexive, unsophisticated opinions. When asked over the summer if she would support a public declaration urging due process for the accused lacrosse players, she offered an emphatic one-word response: "NO."

Haagen says he'll withdraw his mild proposal if faculty opposition to it intensifies. He should instead consider the objections of figures like McClaim to be a badge of honor.

12 comments:

DukeGradNCResident said...

I have to admit, I just don't get it. First we have the comments from Karla Hollaway that she's too conflicted to serve on the campus culture initiative, now we have Group of 88 members who wish to continue their malevolence towards duke athletes which after all represent 10% of the Duke undergraduates. It makes you cringe to think one class meeting with one of these boobs costs a couple of hundred bucks in tuition. due to the fact our baby boom progeny are crowding into the top schools the marketplace mechanisms for weeding out incompetent faculty isn't at play. What other business but higher education can you get away double digit price increases (tuition) while insulting your consumers (students and their parents)?

Anonymous said...

Just wondering. Does Duke University have a president?

Anonymous said...

I don't see how anyone could object to Haagen's proposal. What's wrong with it? What is there to be "aghast" about?

I had a few profs like McClain in college. They exist in some parallel universe called "academia" and seem to have no concept of what goes on in the real world. They don't like to venture out of "academia" because in the real world they don't make the rules.

Anonymous said...

The reprehensible behavior of the Group of 88 should be remembered when this case goes away, after the civil trials and libel suits, after the disbarment proceedings, after the corporate suits bring in new editors, after the search for another Duke president, after the criminal charges.

kbp said...

I see this as a tool to make the Group either put up or shut up. Be a part of the solution or...


...nobody cares about the "or" option in this situation.

Anonymous said...

What a novel idea, college professors taking part in campus life! As someone who has played NCCA Football at a University we did have professors who did participate and interact with us and actually travelled with the team 35 years ago.

Wow, Boldy going where no Professor has ever gone, To a lacrosse Practice!

DukeGradNCResident said...

I'm sad to say it but the influence of these nut cases will only increase. As reported today:

"Members of the Academic Council voted unanimously Thursday to "enthusiastically" accept the University's next strategic plan, "Making a Difference."

Developed in consultation with the University community, the plan is intended to guide Duke's development for the next five years, at a cost of $1.3 billion. The plan will be presented to the Board of Trustees next week for final approval."

Part of this plan "PUTS MORE FOCUS ON THE KEY ROLE PLAYED BY THE HUMANITIES AND SOCIAL SCIENCES"

Anonymous said...

I say it is time to let all our friends know of the situation in Duke/Durham and recommend them not to apply. It is as simple as that. Duke can easily start falling in the college rankings to 18, 28, 38 year by year. Then, we will see how Brodhead is seen: a great success story or a miserable failure. This is not an unrealistic or far fetched outlook, it can happen.

Anonymous said...

11:48, what a brilliant idea...we will do everything we can to destroy the university, then we will blame it all on Brodhead.

Anonymous said...

dukegrad,

Are you suggesting that an elite university like Duke should not put a strong emphasis on the humanities and social sciences? That should come as a big surprise to the people who are running Harvard, Yale, and Princeton, all of which have exceptionally strong programs in these areas.

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