Riding the wave of the Penn State scandal, the AAUP has released a statement about the dangers of unchecked college athletics. As summarized at Inside Higher Ed:

Leaders of the American Association of University Professors on Tuesday released a statement warning of the “dangers of a sports empire” in higher education, citing recent sex-abuse scandals as evidence. “Recent accounts of the systemic cover-up of allegations of sexual assaults on young boys at Penn State indicate that the unchecked growth of a sports empire held unaccountable to the rest of the university community coincided with the steady erosion of faculty governance,” says the statement. “Genuine shared governance, which involves meaningful participation by the faculty in all aspects of an institution, could have resulted in these alleged crimes being reported to city and state police years ago, and might have spared some of the victims the trauma they endured, and indeed continue to endure, because of the memories that remain, and the legal and judicial processes they still face.”

The statement added that “the AAUP’s Council, in the earnest hope of preventing abuses of power, suffering of victims, and betrayals of trust, reaffirms the necessity of ensuring meaningful faculty participation in all aspects of institutional governance and, in particular, of athletics programs.”

Some phrases come to mind: one-trick pony, broken record, agenda-driven. The AAUP is awfully skilled at hijacking issues for its own ends, and most often those ends are the ends we see here: putting the faculty on a pedestal and arguing that all of higher ed’s ills would magically resolve if faculty just had more power (which is what the AAUP means when it talks about governance and academic freedom).

Perhaps, in this instance, they would be right if the professoriate had historically shown even the slightest respect for professional ethics. If it had, it could reasonably argue that more faculty oversight of college athletics could clean them up and prevent future sex scandals and so on. But as Maurice Black and I noted at Inside Higher Ed earlier this year, professors are, as a group, a failure when it comes to professional ethics. And the AAUP, which has abandoned its founding intention to promote and enforce academic ethics, has led the way to that failure.

UPDATE 11/30/11: As a contrast, see ACTA president Anne Neal’s take on Penn State in today’s Wall Street Journal.

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One Comment

  1. david foster says:

    “At the end of the day, we must hold boards accountable”….I think this is correct for university boards of trustees and also to a considerable extent for corporate and nonprofit boards in general. A board membership should be a very serious affair, involving a considerable commitment of time. No one can reasonably be on 7 different jobs and also hold a full-time position and do a decent job at all of it. Seems to me that a limit of 2-4 board memberships would in general be a reasonable guideline–exception for people such as venture capital partners, a big part of whose job IS serving on boards, but in general the membership count needs to get cut down.

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