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Colleges at the Crossroads

Taking Sides on Contested Issues

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Edited By Joseph L. DeVitis and Pietro A. Sasso

Focusing on crucial issues in higher education, this book challenges readers to go beyond taken-for-granted assumptions about America’s colleges and universities and instead critically examine important questions facing them in today’s troubled world. Each chapter presents divergent perspectives, that is, "pro" and "con" views, in the hope of stimulating reasoned dialogue among students, faculty, administrators, and the public at large. Readers will explore how internal factors in the academic community often interact with external social, economic, and political influences to produce conflictual results. They will see that academe is hardly value-neutral and inevitably political. This book urges them to transcend strident political persuasion and instead engage in the careful analysis needed to make colleges better.

The text provides in-depth appraisal of key topics of controversy: the purposes of higher education, liberal education, academic freedom, political correctness, tenure, shared governance, faculty workload, admissions tests, student learning, Greek life, the worth of college, equity and social justice, athletics, student entitlement, technology and distance instruction, and college amenities. The book will appeal to students, faculty, staff, and all those interested in the future of higher education. It is especially useful for courses in contemporary issues in higher education, foundations of higher education, higher education and society, college student development, and the organization and administration of higher education.

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32. Academics and Athletics: Struggles and Strategies in the Pursuit of (A) Grades and (A) Games (Sally Dear-Healey)

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32.  Academics and Athletics: Struggles and Strategies in the Pursuit of (A) Grades and (A) Games

SALLY DEAR-HEALEY

Human beings first—athletes second.

—Raj Bhavsar, Gymnast and Member of the 2008 Olympic Team

Most people attend colleges and universities to get an education. Some have other goals or purposes in mind, one of which is to “play ball.” While the benefits of getting an education are undisputed, there are also advantages associated with participating in college sports, such as “providing critical lessons in discipline, teamwork, dedication to purpose, and other virtues” (Hyman & Van Jura, 2009). The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) states that “Participating in college sports provides opportunities to learn, compete and succeed (and) student-athletes as a group graduate at higher rates than their peers.”1 Unfortunately, the path to “success” for “student athletes” is neither simple nor clear cut.

In fact, some emphatically argue that the two roles—academics and athletics—are both counterproductive and counterintuitive. Accordingly, in an article published by the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy (2000), Jon Ericson argues that we should use the phrase “students who are also athletes” and stop using the term “student-athletes” since the latter “perpetuates the myth of the student who participates in sports as someone special, distinctive, set aside from other students.” For example, there have been a number of cases where, while millions of dollars were lavished on...

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