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The MLA meets, student athletes and a new recruiter

December 29, 2008 |  9:21 am


More than 10,000 literature scholars are in San Francisco for the 124th annual Modern Language Assn. (MLA) convention. Oddly timed to fall between Christmas and New Year's, the MLA is where most universities hold their in-person interviews for professors of literature. In, quite frequently, hotel suites. I've heard of hiring committees taking all the chairs, leaving the interviewee to perch on the bed. Awkward....

More discomfort in academia: the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has published an investigative report about the gap between the test scores of student athletes and their nonathlete counterparts. The study focused on 54 public universities with major sports programs:

Football and men’s basketball players on the nation’s big-time college teams averaged hundreds of points lower on their SATs than their classmates, and some of the gaps are so large they call into question the lengths to which schools will go to win....

Nationwide, football players average 220 points lower on the SAT than their classmates — and men’s basketball players average seven points less than football players.

Inside Higher Education points out that student athletes must devote many hours a day to practice, training, playing and travel. But does that put them at greater risk for academic failure, especially if they're less prepared than their classmates? It also asks some complicated questions:

Are colleges doing a disservice to athletes if they have markedly different admissions standards for them than for other students? Or, as many sports officials argue, should colleges be held accountable more for the ultimate academic performance of their athletes on the way out (e.g., do they graduate?) than for their credentials on the way in?

On a more optimistic note, Rueben Martinez, who won a 2004 MacArthur Foundation grant for his barbershop-turned-bookstore Libreria Martinez, is now working with Chapman University to bring more Latino students to college. Martinez himself never had the opportunity.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Swami Stream via Flickr