Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Academic rigor and athletes in the Ivy League

There is a distinct irony in dozens of students, including a large number of athletes, cheating in a course on sports ethics.

That's the situation at Dartmouth College, where 64 students were accused of cheating in a course called "Sports, Ethics, and Religion." ...

Dartmouth religion professor Randall Balmer has said he initially designed the course to help student-athletes who may have trouble keeping up with the workload at the Ivy League college. Close to 70% of the 272 students enrolled in "Sports, Ethics, and Religion" last semester were Dartmouth varsity athletes, The Dartmouth reports, including more than half of the football, men's hockey, and men's basketball teams.
--Peter Jacobs, Business Insider, on not quite a fake UNC class


“The Structure of Networks,” widely known by undergraduates to be one of Yale’s most popular and least rigorous courses, has been capped and will now include a final exam this semester.

Last spring, more than 500 students took the course, which currently has a workload rating of 1.6/5.0 on CourseTable. ...

“Last year, at least 80 percent of the class received an A,” [professor Ronald Coifman] said. ...

Varsity hockey player Henry Hart ’18 said many athletes take “Structure of Networks” because of its reputation on campus.

“I’m in an all-athlete group chat from a fall economics course, and it blew up about ‘Structure of Networks,’ which is supposed to be a good fit for athletes because of its low rigor,” he said. “It seems like it is a class that doesn’t require a lot of work and lets you focus on other things.”
--David Shimer, Yale Daily News, on not quite a fake UNC class 2


Harvard would not say how many students had been disciplined for cheating on a take-home final exam given last May in a government class, but the university’s statements indicated that the number forced out was around 70. The class had 279 students, and Harvard administrators said last summer that “nearly half” were suspected of cheating and would have their cases reviewed by the Administrative Board. On Friday, a Harvard dean, Michael D. Smith, wrote in a letter to faculty members and students that, of those cases, “somewhat more than half” had resulted in a student’s being required to withdraw. ...

It was a heavy blow to sports programs, because the class drew a large number of varsity athletes, some of them on the basketball team.
--Richard Perez-Peña, NYT, on an athlete-heavy Harvard class


Trevor Nash, a Harvard sophomore from the Atlanta area, said the initial reaction on campus was shock that as many as 125 students in a 279-person class with a reputation for favorable grading and a light workload — Government 1310: Introduction to Congress — were being investigated for cheating on a take-home final exam last semester. ...

The news could reignite a contentious decades-old debate about athletes and academic integrity in the Ivy League. Eleven years ago, the publication of the book “The Game of Life: College Sports and Educational Values,” by the former Princeton president William Bowen and James Shulman of the Mellon Foundation, used a vast database on the academic credentials, grades and majors of 90,000 students from 30 elite universities and colleges to depict an athletic culture that significantly influenced campus ethos.

Among the book’s messages was that today’s athletes at elite institutions enter college less academically prepared and with decidedly different goals and values than their classmates.
--Bill Pennington, NYT, on systematic evidence