The Hypocritical High Road of Academia


I’ve been pre-warned by my boss here at TSM to avoid political speech so as not to piss off this faction or that faction of the political spectrum. So, let me state up front that this is not about politics. It’s about hypocrisy at the supposed highest level of our society. Academia.

I’m a PhD student at an ACC school. I often hear academicians speak negatively about college athletics, as if the football team is keeping students from the real task of learning or distracting teachers from the real mission of the college. These folks would contend that THEY are really concerned about the students and the others are merely trying to profit from the kids’ athletic success.

In a recent "Business Week" piece on Big East expansion, the titular head of the NCAA weighed in with his "concern" about student athletes amidst all of the changes in college football. "This is a continuation of the dominoes that are falling around conference realignment,’’ Mark Emmert, president of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, said today in an interview in New York. ‘‘I certainly hope they are taking care of student-athlete welfare in all of this.’’

Can we talk? It has been a long time since NCAA Division I football has been concerned PRIMARILY with the student athlete. However, in my decade as a college student I’ve learned that it’s not primarily about the students in the academic academy, either. ("A lot of people go to college for ten years." – 'Tommy Boy' Callahan). Don’t let the high and mighty "Intelligencia" fool you into thinking they are any less prone to using students for their own ends or capitalizing on student success.

Ivory tower academicians have their own little scam going on, too. They publish to get prestigious. They raise gobs of cash to build monuments to their own successes – they just call them the "School of _________" buildings instead of athletic centers. Big time academics are all about money and prominence. The self-righteous university Presidents and school Deans demonstrate the same impulse as their school's Athletic Departments when they exclude schools from being part of their prestigious conferences and associations because they aren’t intellectually "up to snuff."

It’s about winning at Yale, Harvard, etc. They want to be the BEST academic institutions. They exclude the UVA’s and Duke’s from their fraternity of snobbery, and these sub-Ivy League schools resent their exclusion. However, they turn around and do the same thing to land grant institutions like WVU who supposedly don’t measure up to their "elite" academic standards.

ACC academicians aren’t sympathetically trying to help less wealthy or well-placed academic institutions get a leg up to the heights of their academic glory. They want to attract the best schools and ultimately the best students so the financial merry-go-round can continue for years to come. Wealthy families pay top dollar tuition. Successful students have successful careers and give money back to the institution. Wealthy donors are solicited so the school and its professors can gloriously build their prestige. And don’t forget about the named "academic" facilities.

Ivy League wannabe academicians in the ACC don’t care more about students than do the under-educated jocks of their school’s athletic departments. Both do care about students, and at varying times the priority of the individual student is more important than others. But just like their athletic counterparts, academicians want to their university to be the best for their own job security, self-esteem and a host of other reasons completely separate from the well being of the student.

For the record, I’m happy that college athletics are big business. I love watching 10 college football games each Saturday in the fall. I support the system by purchasing all sorts of blue and gold crap with WV’s on it. I’m actually happy that my kids are buying me a WVU "Snuggie" for Christmas.

Along the way, I got a college degree in journalism from WVU that taught me how to do something I like and could get paid to do. I just think it is hypocrisy to pretend that going to Mountaineer Field wasn’t more fun than going to class and working in the kitchen at Westchester Hall. And it’s equally hypocritical for academicians to pretend that they don’t have a personal stake in student success.

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