Alesia delves into special admits

2 comments by   |   Monday, September 8, 2008 - 11:34 am EDT

Long-time readers of the Hoosier Scoop know that I consider Indianapolis Star reporter Mark Alesia to be among the very best in the country at what he does, namely investigative reporting. He’s a must-read.

Which is why I risk the ire of my bosses to link to his story from this weekend, headlined ‘Special’ treatment for athletes.

In it, Alesia details, with hard data, what has long been known but probably not very well understood: that athletes get into school even if they don’t have nearly the grades and test scores to do so.

No need to post a synopsis here. It’s a hefty work that should be read in whole.

What I found interesting was the reaction to the story in the form of the comments. Journalists have gnashed too many teeth and debated too late into the night about this sort of open forum for years. To me, reader input can make for a richer reading experience; you’ll see on the Star story that people offered anecdotes that ran counter to the crux of the story. That, I think most would agree, is a positive thing.

But what’s with all the rancor? Can’t people sit at a computer and act like they would if they were in a classroom, or even at a party? Why use the anonymity as a reason to bring the discourse to the lowest levels?

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Monday, September 8, 2008 - 11:01 PM EDT

Surprised no one bit on this one yet. I dont care to write an essay here, so I’m not going to get into it too deep. It was definitely interesting, despite not being a real revelation.

Ultimately, I dont know how or if the situation should be addressed. On one hand, the tone of the article and certainly that of the comments neglects the good that comes out of kids going to college who probably otherwise would not have, and many of them succeeding. However, of course it is important to maintain academic integrity with the admissions and the cirriculum. I’m not extremely worried about some other borderline kid not getting in because a football player did–boo hoo–but I see the point. Bottom line is I’m not upset with some borderline athlete getting a break, so long as it’s somewhat reasonable and they then do the work and graduate. I’m even OK with tutors and some extra assistance from faculty and staff when appropriate. I’m not OK with them getting A’s and B’s and doing nothing. I hope that doesnt happen; I can’t imagine that it happens across the board in every class, but I suppose it may in some. Obviously, this is a complex issue.

Additionally, I also continue to be amazed at the level of discourse online. The Star’s website comments section is ridiculous, it quickly strays from the topic and goes to personal attacks no matter what the article is about. Pretty sad, but unfortunately not all that surprising.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008 - 10:56 AM EDT

I hope Doug didn’t gnaw on your butt too much for this one, but Alesia’s article certainly deserves attention. (BTW-Chris, are you going to beat Mark to the punch on the definitive Greenspan piece?) What’s most troubling about the issue Alesia addresses is the systemic nature and institutionalization of the practices. Whether the coach must present the special admit to a committee or has carte blanch with the admissions officers, there clearly seems to be an open door policy if the athlete meets NCAA min. requirements. While the special admit issue is indeed complex and concerning, I believe the bigger issue lies in the validity of the grades the kids actually receive once admitted. Who’s been to college and not heard about “math for athletes,” etc.? Moreover, recent news indicates that overzealous tutors and all-too-understanding professors (mostly associate instructors) pose the greatest threat to the academic integrity of student-athletes. Were it not for the issue being completely shrouded in privacy policies, I’d love to see an article that examines which classes the athletes are taking, the proportion of athletes/non-athletes enrolled in those classes, and the policies/oversight/enforcement surround the teams’ academic support staffs. I have little problem with marginally qualified kids getting special consideration for their athletic prowess. I agree with Pam Horne’s assessment that, even in an academic institution, ” talent in the arts and sports contributes to the campus.” My moral/ethical line is clearly drawn when they’re allowed to take classes geared at an 8th-10th grade level and still rely on their tutors to complete the bulk of their course work.

As for the degenerative nature of the Star’s discussion boards, I’ve noticed the biggest idiots seek the largest soapbox from which to spew their nonsensical rants. Any discussion there will immediately delve to the level of moronic IU v. Purdue-based personal attacks. Reading the Star’s posts is like talking to girls at Sports, rarely will 1 in 8 even be worth your time. Personally, I prefer the posts on the HT, as more than 50% usually offer some insightful opinions or reasonably supported conclusions. Just my $.02


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