Would it surprise you to learn this?
The new batch of data was unambiguous. Half of the students in one major were athletes. One in three black players on Auburn’s football team was enrolled in the program.
Rather than question how this might have happened, the university’s provost instead offered a plan: Create more programs like it.
“The following report points to the need for more majors that have enough elective courses etc.,” Timothy R. Boosinger, the provost at the time, wrote in the late winter of 2015 to G. Jay Gogue, who was then the president. So many athletes concentrated in one major — public administration — can attract controversy, and it did. Offering more programs with similarly flexible requirements would, Boosinger implied, solve the problem.
The provost assured the president that those other programs were in the works, and that he had met with Jay Jacobs, who was then the athletic director, “to discuss the new offerings that are in the pipeline.”
The email and other communications obtained by The Chronicle suggest an openness among Auburn’s academic leaders to tailor a curriculum for the specific benefit of athletes, privately discussing the creation of new majors that would best serve a small but high-profile segment of the student body. These discussions demonstrate the power of athletic interests at universities with big-time sports programs and the quiet ways in which they put pressure on the academic enterprise.
Nah, I didn’t think so. Well, then, what about this?
The athletics department’s interest in public administration was first reported by The Wall Street Journal in 2015. Faculty committees had voted to discontinue the program after its centrality to the department’s educational mission was questioned. But Auburn kept the major after a lobbying effort from athletics officials, who at one point offered money to keep it afloat.
Okay, no surprise there.
Auburn officials say that no money came from athletics.
And the punchline…
In response to questions from The Chronicle, the university said that the athletics department does not unduly influence curricular decisions.
“The shared governance system at Auburn serves as a type of internal watchdog, guarding against the very type of situation at the center of your questioning,” C. Michael Clardy, a university spokesman, wrote in an email. “We as an institution are committed to the integrity and rigor of our academic programs.”
Well, that’s a relief.