PRESS RELEASE – SEPTEMBER 11, 2019
For immediate release
For more information:
Dr. B. David Ridpath, Ed.D.
The Drake Group
In Loco Parentis…or Just Loco?
NEW HAVEN, CONN. –
Drake President B. David Ridpath commented, “Normally The Drake Group takes its responsibility to comment on intercollegiate issues with the utmost seriousness and academic rigor expected of an organization of academicians. We make this exception only because we were rendered quasi-speechless at this recent effort to control the lives of college athletes.”
It has come to the attention of The Drake Group that “The University [of North Carolina] has launched a pilot program that uses beacon technology [called SpotterEDU] to track the attendance of select student-athletes.”(1)
UNC has always been an innovator. (In)famously, it pioneered in the development of sham courses for athletes to take so that they could remain eligible to play basketball and football.(2) We are therefore encouraged to see UNC leading the way yet again for Division I sports programs.
Yet we have some questions about the use of this new technology, which is supposed to record a student’s presence in a classroom through an app on his or her iPhone. First of all, if the courses are sham, what does it mean to record attendance? But even if the courses are real, what is to prevent an athlete from giving the iPhone to a friend who goes to the same class and staying in bed instead?
And how can the app ensure that the athlete is actually paying attention in class rather than sleeping in the back row, a not uncommon occurrence according to teachers who have these student-athletes in their classes?(3) This kind of “attendance” (but not attentiveness) helps with the problem of sleep deprivation frequently found among athletes but does nothing to contribute to
the education they have been promised in return for their services on the playing field.
It strikes us that athletes on scholarship share a lot in common with the indentured servants from Europe who came to North Carolina in the 18th century under a contract that provided them certain benefits in exchange for their labor.(4) Their term of service, like that of athletes, usually ran to about four or five years, and they were provided with food, lodging, and clothing (which would be
uniforms for athletes). For violations they, like athletes, were subjected to various types of corporal punishment (for athletes taking the form of penalty workouts). We suspect that UNC’s next technological advancement will go beyond the adoption of this limited function app to avail itself of the technology now used for pets, who have chips installed so that their “masters” (the modern counterparts of the masters of old) can keep track of them at all times and know for sure that they are physically present in the classroom.
The Drake Group has always thought that higher education is all about learning to become a well-informed adult capable of independent and responsible decision-making. We must be wrong when it comes to what is best for adult college athletes.
(3) See, e.g., William C. Dowling, Confessions of a Spoilsport: My Life and Hard Times Fighting Sports Corruption at an Old Eastern University (University Park, PA: Penn State University Press, 2007), p. 146-147.
We thank Sandy Thatcher, a member of the The Drake Group Board of Directors, for this “Swiftian” contribution.