Saturday, 27 October 2007

Well, that sucked

Ugh. On the upside, I did meet a couple at the bar I saw the game at that gave me some suggestions for tourist stuff to do when Mom is here next week, so all-in-all I guess it was worthwhile.

Sunday, 10 December 2006

Another turn in the Auburn sham course scandal

Margaret Soltan shares some commentary on a report in Sunday’s New York Times on an investigation into grading irregularities involving Auburn scholarship athletes. Key paragraphs of the NYT report:

An internal audit at Auburn University found that a grade for a scholarship athlete was changed without the knowledge of the professor, raising the athlete’s average in the final semester just over the 2.0 minimum for graduation.

The grade, which was changed to an A from an incomplete, was one of four A’s the athlete received in the spring semester of 2003. None of the courses required classroom attendance. ...

The grade was changed without the consent of the instructor listed for the course, the sociology professor Paul Starr. He said he did not teach the course to the athlete that semester and did not recall ever meeting the athlete.

“It was a phantom student in a phantom class,” Starr said in an interview in his office this week. “The schedule was a very strange one. You don’t cook up a schedule like that yourself. There was obviously some kind of guidance and special allowances with someone who had that kind of schedule.”

Starr said he found out about the grade change, which occurred May 12, 2003, only eight days ago, when he received an e-mail message as part of the internal audit. The information systems auditor who sent the message, Robert Gottesman, said the audit had nothing to do with the sociology department or the athletic department. It is not known whether the grade changes were widespread, but other sociology department professors received e-mail messages from the auditor this week.

The e-mail message Starr received Nov. 29 said, “As part of an ongoing audit, Auburn University Internal Audit is reviewing changes made to grades where the documentation was signed by someone other than the instructor of record.” ...

Starr said that he would like to find out who had authorized the grade change but that he had heard nothing since replying to Gottesman on Nov. 30.

“I want to know more about the circumstance,” Starr said. “If credit is assigned by my name, I should know the background to it, whether it was an error or an inappropriate act, because I’m the instructor of record.”

The same week Starr received the audit notice, other professors in his department, which includes sociology, anthropology, social work and criminology, received e-mail messages from an auditor.

This does not look good, to say the least. As Margaret puts it, in a nutshell: “Are we clear about what’s going on at Auburn? People affiliated with the sports program are getting in to the university computer, adding the names of players to professors’ class lists, and assigning them A’s from those professors.”

Sunday, 29 October 2006

Auburn: Georgia and Alabama, yet again

The Auburn game pretty much felt like the games against Georgia and Alabama this year: a game the Rebels could have won—perhaps even should have won—but for a few mistakes on both sides of the ball that are the result of two major factors: playing true freshmen and playing Schaeffer, who is still learning the offense due to arriving on campus in mid-August.

The good news for the Rebels is that they probably don’t have to worry about doing worse than last year’s three-win mark, with four wins highly likely and an outside shot at five wins if the Rebels can steal one in Red Stick against an LSU squad that’s not having its best year.

Thursday, 26 October 2006


After a brief respite at home, it’s back on the road again tomorrow; I’m going to Memphis for the weekend to watch Ole Miss get trounced by play Auburn down in Oxford with my mom and my step-dad.

But never fear, posting won’t be going away… for reasons that deeply annoy me (largely the intersection of Charter’s unreliable cable modem service and AT&T’s nonexistent DSL in my little corner of Clayton), my mother’s house actually has better high-speed Internet access than mine.

Friday, 14 July 2006

Auburn athletics in sham course scandal

EDSBS links a New York Times piece from yesterday detailing some rather creative use of independent study classes by a professor in the Auburn sociology department who was apparently in cahoots with an athletic tutor to give Tiger jocks cheap A’s. The money quote in my book:

[Carnell “Cadillac”] Williams said one of the two directed-reading courses he took with Professor [Thomas] Petee during the spring of 2005 was a statistics class.

Asked if that course, considered the most difficult in the sociology major, was available to regular students as a directed reading, Professor Petee said, “No, not usually.”

Mr. Williams described the class this way: “You’re just studying different kinds of math. It’s one of those things where you write a report about the different theories and things like that.”

The NCAA is, as they say, investigating, although I ultimately expect little more than a wrist-slap for Tommy Tuberville’s rogue program down on the Plains, in large part because this (and similar) petty corruption is widespread in college football. One example: I have it on good authority that at least one NFL star who was an Ole Miss criminal justice major was as dumb as a post yet somehow managed to maintain his eligibility through softball-lobbing instructors and professors, with generous assists from the athletic tutors. Most people who’ve spent any time around Division I schools can probably tell similar stories—particularly if they’ve been in or near what Prof. Karlson artfully refers to as the Division of Cooling Out the Mark.

That said, directed readings courses may be the soft underbelly of grade inflation more generally for athlete and non-athlete alike; certainly it’s hard to give out many C’s and D’s when you really have no other students to compare a directed readings student to, although in theory professors shouldn’t be letting bad students in independent study courses in the first place (so there may be a selection bias issue here).

Saturday, 3 September 2005

College football thought of the day

You know, a year ago the statement “Brandon Cox is no Jason Campbell” wouldn’t have been an insult.