sports and the academy
Maybe it’s because I’m on a high from the Australian Open final (yay Rafa!) but this post (and the subsequent comments), over at Historiann’s blog, struck a nerve with me.
Without revealing too much, I can say that I went to a university where sports were a vital part of the college experience. If you asked my freshman class what brought us to that school, an overwhelming majority would have mentioned, probably in tandem, sports and academics. At my school, they went hand-in-hand. My university (which I’ve referred to in the past as More Fun Research University, MFRU) was in another state, although still in driving distance and, when I started thinking about colleges (in middle school), the only context in which I heard about this school was through sports. Once I checked into it further, I realized its stellar reputation academically, especially in the field I’d planned to go into at the time. It was the perfect combination for me: a school where my education would be a top priority and where I would really be pushed that also had a thriving social/sport scene and a real sense of campus identity. In fact, when it came down to picking between my options senior year, I argued vigorously to go to MFRU over another option, almost exclusively based on the fact that I knew I’d enjoy the four years at MFRU more. That turned out to be the best decision of my life, since I’d been accepted into a specific program at the other school, one that would not have allowed me to transfer out of that field; as it turned out, the fallout of my major family trauma forced me out of that field. It ended up being a blessing that my transition into history didn’t involve transferring schools or being at a school with a less than notable history program.
All that to say, I loved that college sports played such a big role in my college experience and I couldn’t imagine those four years without it. And, I must add, although nobody reading my blog (that I know of) actually knew me in college, I wasn’t even all that active in the sports scene. I didn’t go to all that many games. But having it and being a part of it was important.
And my education in no way suffered.
So imagine my surprise when I get to graduate school to hear low murmurings about how horrible college sports are and how they get in the way and they’re a hassle. Huh? I’ve heard of professors who get angry when work isn’t turned in on time and other such stuff. Classes can’t be scheduled at a certain time because of practices. BS, I say. Student-athletes have a responsibility to turn in work on time. When they don’t, grade them accordingly. No sweat. Schedule those classes whenever; at MFRU (where, trust me, sports were considerably better and more important than they are at my current institution), if a student couldn’t take a class at a particular time because of conflict with practice, he or she just didn’t take that class. I’d wanted to be a manager for one of the sports teams my freshman year; when I found out practices were during one of my classes, I didn’t become a manager. Life moved on.
When I hear these complaints, I’m never convinced that they’re really about what’s best for the student or the student’s education. After all, isn’t college about the student taking charge of their own education? Plus I find it hard to accept that these students are “lazy,” seeing as they do considerably more physically each day than their peers or than us, frankly. Instead, I sense a strange antipathy, even hatred, towards the existence of sports on campus, period. And I don’t get it.
I know not everybody loves sports; that’s fine. But nobody’s complaining about choirs or theatre; debate practice or model UN. It’s just sports that gets everybody’s wrath.
So help me out, dear readers. Why do those of us in academe hate college sports so much??
Filed under: academia broadly, observations | 5 Comments