Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Inside Higher Ed on Academic Fraud

Apologies for the long hiatus. This is my first semester on tenure-track and marking my 150 exams is currently consuming my life. Thankfully University Diaries has been ably reporting on most of the important scandals in intercollegiate athletics. There was also an excellent article yesterday at Inside Higher Ed on Academic Fraud. Both the article and the comments thread are well worth reading. Here are a couple excerpts:

Largely as a response to sagging graduation rates for football and basketball players, the NCAA put into place several years ago new academic rules that require colleges to report each term whether their athletes are on progress toward a degree — with penalties awaiting those whose students aren’t progressing and aren’t performing.

At the same time, the NCAA reversed its previous approach of continually raising initial entrance requirements and began allowing students with SAT scores as low as 400 (or a corresponding ACT score) to enroll so long as their high school grades were high enough. That move appeased critics of the standardized test score requirement who said it adversely affected minority students.

In the years since the changes, many have expressed concern that the combination of heightened academic expectations and lowered entrance regulations would put the campus employees responsible for providing academic support to athletes in a tough spot, asked to help a growing number of marginal students — potentially at all costs. . . .

David Goldfield, a professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte who served on the academic eligibility and compliance cabinet of the NCAA, which helped craft the new policy, said he supports the new progress standards but still opposes lowering entrance requirements — which he said strains the entire system of academic support.

“When there’s pressure applied you’re going to get a reaction, and the reaction we’re seeing is academic fraud cases,” Goldfield said. “From a coach’s perspective, the major task is to win, but now with the new requirements, the second and often equally pressing task is to maintain the eligibility of players.”

Goldfield fears that academic fraud cases are far more widespread than just the ones reported to the NCAA. Compliance officers can have a difficult time tracking down such cases, he said, because they can involve wrongdoing by people in all parts of an institution, and often rely on self-reporting by athletics officials. . . .

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