Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Paula McClain: On Athletics

Duke’s Academic Council recently elected Group of 88 member Paula McClain as its new chairwoman. (The council “meets weekly during the school year, and as necessary during the summer months. It meets monthly with the chief officers of the University, and several times each year with the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees. It serves as the Committee on Committees [the body that assigns professors to all committees] for both the Council and the University Faculty.”)

Last fall, the current chairman of the council, Paul Haagen, offered a common-sense proposal to pair individual professors with athletic teams, to give the faculty a better sense of athletic life for Duke students. The proposal was hardly a panacea, but given the anti-athlete bias expressed by some Duke professors, it seemed as if no one could object to Haagen’s proposal.

Not McClain. She told the N&O that of colleagues she had encountered, “people are just aghast that it’s being considered.”

The remark brings to mind Wahneema Lubiano’s comment that she encountered no one who thought the Group of 88’s ad was a bad idea.

And, when shown a sophomoric spoof of the Haagen proposal, the N&O reported that McClain “chuckled at the document.”

As Sports Law Blog tartly observed, “Apparently, Professor McClain--who is co-director of Duke's Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity, and Gender in the Social Sciences--believes that in the aftermath of the Duke lacrosse scandal, the University needs to distance itself from its sports teams, rather than embrace them.

McClain’s term as the Duke faculty’s elected leader lasts for two years. She did not reply to an e-mail requesting comment.

34 comments:

Anonymous said...

Sure seems the 88 have lots of influence on the campus. It sort of shoots holds in the idea they were just having free speech as individuals. They are the leaders, as witness their positions on these boards.

Anonymous said...

She did not reply to an e-mail requesting comment.

Why would anyone be surprised? These people---McClain and her fellow Gang members---know that they will receive no pressure from the Brodhead administration to change their uncivilized behavior.

Duke alumni and society in general must persist in illuminating what people like McClain are doing to the academic climate. No student in their midst who does not tow the bigoted line they have constructed will receive a fair shake.

Or any semblance of a quality education for the enormous amount of money they and their parents must fork over.

Sad, that.

Brodhead must go.

Debrah

Anonymous said...

What is keeping the charges from being dropped. As bad as Nifong has been, I would think the man power would be more focused on getting the charges dropped. Then they can deal with Nifong in the civil arena.

Anonymous said...

It appears that, all common sense and civil rights to the contrary, that the Politburo of Duke University, embodied by the Gang of 88, are ensuring that an appropriate commissar shall be emplaced on each of the commanding heights to supervise the thought processes of the clueless proletariat.

Insufficiently Sensitive

Anonymous said...

I will bet that McClain is not aghast at the CCI recommendation for a mandatory diversity course for Duke students.

Can anyone provide details about the Academic Council and its most recent election? What percentage of the faculty participated in the election? How many council members are there? How are they selected? What power does the Council have?

Is there a web site that describes the purpose and rules of the Council?

Anonymous said...

My questions about the Academic Council have been answered on the link provided by KC. Thanks.

becket03 said...

McClain was "aghast" at the proposal for faculty to trail athletic teams because academics consider themselves superior to athletes, brainpower being more important than muscle power, in their view. And certainly, they must have more brainpower, mustn't they? After all, they have all those letters after their names, symbols of certification of their mental prowess.

The truth is less flattering for academics, and in the back of their minds many of them know it. Everyday people don't come to watch academics work, but they arrive in droves to witness acts of thrilling derring do by the physically gifted. So in the real world, as opposed to the ivory tower, muscle power expertly applied does count for more than brainpower.

But here's the real kicker for the PhD crowd. They're really not that much smarter than everyone else. They're mostly just very average folks, whose lack of success on the playing field drove them indoors to the library.

beckett

Anonymous said...

The question of faculty involvement in athletics is interesting. Athletics plays a large role in alumnia relations, attracting applications and in student life both for players and spectators. But it doesn't interact a great deal with the academic side.

Coaches and athletic departments go to considerable lengths to insure that their players maintain academic eligibility. Athletes often operate under considerably stronger academic restrictions than other students. Class attendance is often required by their coaches and evening study hours are often mandated. While most student athletes are good students, some are weaker than the typical student at the particular college and substantial tutoring help is made available to the student athletes who struggle academically.

One area of potential conflict is scheduling. Due to traveling for competition, faculty are sometimes asked to make allowances for athletes who are unable to attend class due to participation in athletic events. Though this is not different from excused absences to attend a model UN or to perform on a concert tour, such absences are more extensive from athletic conflicts.

Some faculty resent such intrusions and some resent the vast amounts of resources involved in athletic programs, many questioning the value to the institution as a whole. Others, probably the majority, see athletics as part of campus life and find no problem in filling out progress reports for athletes or scheduling make-ups for students who are traveling during exams. Some become active fans and become regulars at sporting events, often using them for family outings.

In any event, like them or hate them, varsity sports is a permanent and important fixture at most colleges and particularly at a school like Duke. So faculty have a need to find some structure if it wants to have some input in what goes on in college sports.

The problem for faculty is not simply creating some kind of institutional structure for getting involved with campus sports. It is important to find faculty who actually know something about college athletics and have something to contribute to enhancing campus life through their involvement. That is not so easy to find. It is easy to get people who want tickets and the thrill of getting to know the players and coaches and feeling part of something that gets a lot of public attention. Similarly, it would not be hard to find faculty who don't like sports and consider college athletics as a nuisance kept around to keep the alumni happy.

But it seems to me is that what you want are faculty who have played sports and appreciate the things about sports that contribute to a person's individual development and at the same time is aware of when the involvement can be too much of a distraction. There are obvious differences between athletics and academics but they share one thing in common that is central to both missions. They are both at heart concerned with teaching. And there is much to be learned from coaching that is equally applicable to teaching. Motivation, discipline and persistence are essential to learning whether it is on the ball field or in the classroom.

The value of practice, while axiomatic in sports, is not always accepted in academics. While nobody would dispute the value of practicing foul shots, doing calisthenics, running three or four miles a day, hitting tackling dummies or any of the tedious activities athletes do on a daily basis to prepare for competition. But the need to constantly review previous work, to do a certain amount of dull repetitive mental exercises on a daily basis is not as clear to academics.

I'm not sure that the specific proposal before Duke's Academic Council is worthwhile. That depends on how it would be implemented. But I do think that intelligent input from faculty that is neither too fawning or too hostile can be a useful thing. I would hope that the Duke Academic Council finds a way to contribute to helping athletics enhance life at Duke.

Gary Packwood said...

If Paula can say publicly that 'people are just aghast' about her colleagues suggestion to help Duke improve is being considered...and get away with it...then anything is possible.

With McClain now in the top spot for faculty governance, I guess we should be prepared for more revelations to come forward about students that Professor McClain and her friends do not care for.

Students, whose turn in the barrel?

Gayle Miller said...

So she is both a bonehead AND rude!

bill anderson said...

Let me say that I am "aghast" at the prospect of the Paula McClains being the face of higher education. Believe me, she is pretty typical of the academic snob who does not know half of what she thinks she knows. I have seen these types all too often in my business, and I will say I have no respect for them. None.

xyz said...

KC said:
"And, when shown a sophomoric spoof of the Haagen proposal, the N&O reported that McClain “chuckled at the document.”


It is good when people can laugh a little bit. It helps to make it through tense times. I disagree with Professor McClain on many points, but I like her willingness to smile.

xyz said...


becket03 said...

McClain was "aghast" at the proposal for faculty to trail athletic teams because academics consider themselves superior to athletes, brainpower being more important than muscle power, in their view.


Most people in most universities think brainpower is more important than muscle power. In any event, virtually all university faculty think so. It is detrimental to university students to tell them otherwise, for the number of people who will be able to make a decent living through muscle power is an exceedingly small percentage of athletes.

College athletics may bring a few months of fame, may produce income for the school, and may be filled with enjoyment for those participating. But, let's not push things beyond what is reasonable.

Nunway said...

"One area of potential conflict is scheduling. Due to traveling for competition, faculty are sometimes asked to make allowances for athletes who are unable to attend class due to participation in athletic events. Though this is not different from excused absences to attend a model UN or to perform on a concert tour, such absences are more extensive from athletic conflicts." [Anonymous, Mar 6, 2007 3:01:00 PM]

I agree with Anonymous that faculty may be asked to make more allowances for an athlete's travel schedule than for the extracurricular activities of other students. I would think that those faculty constantly prattling about "diversity," however, would welcome the disciplined and balanced approach to life (sound mind in sound body) that most athletes bring to campus life. This approach should be welcomed as an example to other students and the faculty itself. Unfortunately, among many faculty members, as Orwell might have written if he were alive today and were in the process of penning a novel about the Duke case, some diversities are more equal than others.

Anonymous said...

Well, we are rushing headlong towards the first anniversary of the allegations being made ...

Will there be any resolution before that date?

duke09parent said...

I thought the Haagen proposal was a bit of the tail wagging the dog. Even on a voluntary basis the faculty liason thing might be letting an enemy of the program behind the curtain (to mix metaphors).

craigcw said...

My experience with Phd designated people is that they are like anyone with some type of "doctor" in their title. There are those who are very intelligent and good at what they do, and there are those who are not really very bright and are very bad at what they do. From my experiences during 50 years of life, this has held true whether the person was an excellent medical doctor, a crappy drunken animal vet, an inspiring English prof, or a Phd teaching a graduate course that couldn't even speak with correct grammer. The quality of the person whose name precedes the title is what matters, not the title. This quality or lack of quality is present at all levels of our educational system, and is obviously present at Duke. To me it once again illustrates that all eduactional standards have been lowered over the years. When I read about these supposedly intelligent profs at Duke, I always think back to a grad course in Education I took at Ohio University in the 1980's. The Phd teaching the course not only spoke with the grammer of someone with a 3rd grade education at best, but on the first day of the class he informed us that we was rescheduling the class to a later time in the day so he could take a nap between his morning and afternoon classes! I feel certain that there are more than few of Duke's faculty that would get along well with this bozo at OU. At least he was an easy "A".......

bill anderson said...

Granted, as a former collegiate athlete on an NCAA championship team, I tend to be prejudiced on this subject. But the reason I despise people like Peter Wood and Paula McClain is because they are dishonest and they are academic snobs. That is a lousy combination, believe me.

To xyz: I have both a doctorate AND and All-American plaque. One was earned in adulthood, and the other earned when I was a student at Tennessee more than 30 years ago. I believe that one can do both athletics and academics. I understand your point, but after watching much of the Duke faculty speak in fantasy terms over the past year, I think the athletes really have proven themselves to be more realistic and better-grounded people than the gaggle of Ph.D.s that populate the G88.

Anonymous said...

Meanwhile, the Duke lacrosse team continues to excel, defeating St. Joseph today 18-4 for a 4-0 record.

Anonymous said...

KC said: "Last fall, the current chairman of the council, Paul Haagen, offered a common-sense proposal to pair individual professors with athletic teams, to give the faculty a better sense of athletic life for Duke students. The proposal was hardly a panacea, but given the anti-athlete bias expressed by some Duke professors, it seemed as if no one could object to Haagen’s proposal."

I'm not familiar with the details of Haagen's proposal. If it something simply offered for interested professors, it sounds like a good idea. If it is imposed on professors or if it is pushed by the administration so faculty may feel obligated to participate, then the proposal is no better than the CCI proposal that mandates all students to enroll in a diversity course.

KC Johnson said...

The Haagen proposal was just for interested profs.

Anonymous said...

Athletes are selected by dint of rigorous competition: they have proved that they are the best. No affirmative action for them.

Many academics are selected by
a) affirmative action
b) politics
c) because there were more positions that needed to be filled than there were applicants.

There are no objective criteria for much of academic appointment, other than a [itself subjective, in many cases] degree.

Thus, part of the mighty rejection by academics of athletes may lie in the gulf between true challenge and achievement on the one hand, and artificial, self-defined accomplishment on the other.

While Wellington's alleged statement that, "The Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton" may be fictional, the concept remains: athletics teaches more life-critical skills than any course taught by the 88 - except, perhaps, whining and victimhood.

Anonymous said...

McClain and the group of 88 are much adieu about nothing. They deserve little press and less consideration regarding their CCI proposals or their self serving redemption tours. I actually believe the only reason anyone cares about them is that KC constantly comments on their miscreant behavior in this blog. In fact they probably enjoy reading this blog. The only saving grace is that they continually fail to follow an old bit of advice: When you find yourself in a hole stop digging. Their arrogance and self perceived intellectual superiority will eventually lead to their downfall in civil court.

Orange Lazarus

Anonymous said...

To craigcw:

If you're going to scorn someone because he "couldn't even speak with correct grammer (sic)" and "spoke with the grammer of someone with a 3rd grade education" you might want to check your spelling :-))

Anonymous said...

TO 7:21PM---

A most excellent post.

(Are you sure you're not Bob Wilson?) :>)

Debrah

Anonymous said...

Affirmative action is hard at work at Duke. How must it feel to go work every day and know that you got your job over someone better than you because if your race? What would it feel like to go to work everyday fully qualified in your profession and worthy in every way of your position and wonder if everyone thinks you got your job based on affirmative action?

Anonymous said...

Carolyn says:

Whooo hoo! If you think McClain and the Gang are arrogant, you should take a look at the latest post on Liestoppers.

http://www.liestoppers.blogspot.com

Liestoppers has just painstakingly pasted each one of Nifong's answers to the specific State Bar complaint it refers to. Thus, by reading the pretty blue ink, you finally understand exactly the 287 complaints Nifong is denying, obfuscating and generally blaming anyone except himself for.

Like I said, if you want to see arrogance for the truth, you have to look at this.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Debrah.

I appreciate the compliment, but I am but a humble clergyman, with a DDS and an MA in Theoretical Chemistry on the side.

My hobby is what I call Ethical Anthropology - a self-explanatory title - and this case is providing fascinating insights into precisely how various cohorts define ethics and adhere to those definitions. One ultimate test is consistency in demanding the same standards of oneself as one demands of others.

I fear that very few of the players in this debacle have passed this particular test. But then again, the criteria for passing are mine and mine alone. I do not expect anybody else to submit to my grading standards.

But enough of the preaching. I withdraw once again to observe. [Boy is this a pompous comment!]

Gary Packwood said...

Here is the juice for Paula to work on in her new leadership position at Duke.

There is much more going on over at Duke that any of us know or probably even want to know.

I just posted this comment to Dr. Merson of Duke Medial.

GP


Dr. Merson,

I applaud you article and the commitment you express towards the important of disease prevention as well as primary care. Your statement of 'tie in' with strategic economic development is well said.

In the paragraph below you outlined the justification for the Duke initiative and I agree with you.

"There is now recognition that a healthy population is essential for economic development and that, in turn, reduction of poverty is necessary to reduce wide disparities in mortality and morbidity in low-income populations. Accordingly, health and health care must be part of any strategy for economic development and political stability"

I have a question however about the timing of your article.

Next to your article in this issue of The Chronicle is Kristin Butler's article about The Duke Health System ...Soaking the Poor.

http://media.www.dukechronicle.com/media/storage/paper884/news/2007/03/06/Columns/Soaking.The.Poor-2759722.shtml

Like most modern educated people I find myself becoming somewhat seinfeldesque in my appreciation of irony, but these two article appearing together in the same issue of The Chronicle is just beyond ...irony.

Before Duke strikes off to help solve the problems of Nairobi do you think it might be wise to at least give some attention to poor people in Durham? Or at least, do something to lessen the number of class action law suits where Duke is named?

Understanding poverty in the developing world is complex. Why not start up that learning curve with an understanding of poverty, lack of primary health care and health care administration ...in Durham USA.

I wish you well.

Reference:

http://media.www.dukechronicle.com/home/index.cfm?event=displayArticle&ustory_id=97c7a02a-3cb3-4140-ab69-7080bd2cf551

wayne fontes said...

Nunway said: "some diversities are more equal than others"

Great phrase, I'm sure I'll be stealing it soon. For a group of people who are asking students to pay for mandatory diversity training to be aghast at a voluntary program to learn about athletics just stinks of hypocrisy. The G88 should realize it just depends on whose water buffalo is getting gored.

No justice, no peace said...

"...how various cohorts define ethics and adhere to those definitions. One ultimate test is consistency in demanding the same standards of oneself as one demands of others..."

This is very mushy and creates moral relativism, does it not?

To compare an eighteen year drinking beer (illegal) and hiring a stripper (legal) against the following in the context of the definition above is to say each action is equal. They are not.

1. Being a stripper
2. Being a prostitute
3. Being a liar
4. Bringing false charges
5. Taking illegal drugs
6. Taking illegal drugs with alcohol
7. Continuing to bring false charge when you've been exposed as a liar
8. Continuing to bring false charges when evidence proves you are a liar
9. The Administration, NAACP, pot bangers, Gang of 88, et al. supporting a fraudulent prosecution.
10. Local, State, and NC National Democratic leadership actively or inactively (silence) supporting a fraudulent/criminal prosecution
11. The Administration, NAACP, pot bangers, Gang of 88 diminution of actual rapes
12. The media suppressing crime statistics
13. The media supporting the prosecutorial fraud, and probably worst of all...
14. Putting ones self forth as an academic and teaching fraudulent, hateful, deconstructionist mush that destroys the human spirit.

There are so many events that offends one’s sense of justice that I’m quite certain I’m leaving much off my list. At this point I see two things which may be worse than #14; if the boys go to trial and are convicted, and the administration that actively supports #14.

Each is a Purgatorio-styled stepping-stone to hell it seems to me.

Ogling naked women who are paid to undress and drinking beer don't even approach the first step. While those acts may offend Grandma, let’s remember that God made hops, women, eyes, and testosterone.

I suspect we will see that some of the above is deemed criminal when this is all said and done.

By the way drinking beer illegally at 18 begs the question as to whether that law is just.

Anonymous said...

The people doing real scholarship at Duke don't have the time to involve themselves in the political games of the 88 ilk, so the 88 become a disproportionately large voice on campus. It's a shame that those with the thinnest academic credentials are often the most vocal at their academies. I'm grateful for the few reasonable people that do speak up to oppose the biased commentary of the 88 ilk.

Anonymous said...

becket03: McClain was "aghast" at the proposal for faculty to trail athletic teams because academics consider themselves superior to athletes, brainpower being more important than muscle power, in their view.

That's because, in modern society, brainpower is more important than muscle power. Society could replace most brute physical labor with automation, but could we do as well without engineers, scientists, teachers, writers, and doctors?

The truth is less flattering for academics, and in the back of their minds many of them know it. Everyday people don't come to watch academics work, but they arrive in droves to witness acts of thrilling derring do by the physically gifted. So in the real world, as opposed to the ivory tower, muscle power expertly applied does count for more than brainpower.

Oh, please. You're talking about a tiny, tiny percentage of the physically gifted - basically a statistical error. Even then, who's richer - Kobe Bryant or Bill Gates?

The fact is that most people whose only asset is "muscle power" end up working in menial jobs. The purpose of college is to enable people to achieve more than that.

Anonymous said...

Anyone who is gifted with genius or athlethic ability, should be grateful. Most of us are ordinary working schmoos, glad to be making a living.