ON TRIAL IN GEORGIA: ACADEMIC INTEGRITY
Since the color line was broken for athletes at the University of Georgia in 1969, approximately 200 blacks have worn Bulldog uniforms in one sport or another. And how many of them have graduated? Perhaps as few as 30.
That is one of many revelations about Georgia athletics that have emerged during a trial in U.S. District Court in Atlanta. The case is a civil suit brought against two university administrators by Jan Kemp, a former English coordinator and instructor in Georgia's developmental studies department, a remedial program that has been characterized as a warehouse for the school's academically unqualified athletes. Last week, in the second week of testimony, witnesses told of preferential academic treatment accorded Georgia scholarship athletes, at least one of whom appeared to have been accepted into the school without the NCAA-required 2.0 high school grade-point average. Kemp, 36, claims she was dismissed from her job for speaking out against such favorable treatment. She is suing for reinstatement and for more than $100,000 in damages.
Former and current faculty members testified that athletes with little hope of graduating from Georgia were kept eligible in developmental studies, where they would not have to face true college-level courses. A number of athletes were said to have received more than the specified four chances to pass developmental studies courses, and school records showed that several had been curiously "exited" into the regular university curriculum despite sub-2.0 GPAs, one a 0.29, roughly an F plus.
The defendants, Virginia Trotter, the vice-president for academic affairs, and Leroy Ervin, the assistant vice-president in charge of developmental studies, contend that Kemp was dismissed because she failed to conduct scholarly research and was a disruptive influence. Their attorney, Hale Almand, raised eyebrows when he tried to justify the treatment given to academically deficient athletes. "We may not make a university student out of [an athlete]," Almand said. "But if we can teach him to read and write, maybe he can work at the post office rather than as a garbage man when he gets through with his athletic career."
There were other startling assertions. Kemp testified that in 1981, after she had refused Ervin's request that she ask a developmental studies instructor to change the failing grades of five scholarship athletes to incompletes, Ervin told her, "Who do you think you are? Who do you think is more important at this university, you or a very prominent basketball player?" When the athletic department's chief academic counselor, Dick Copas, took the stand, he seemed to have trouble clearly describing academic guidelines followed in developmental studies, a program through which a large number of scholarship athletes in revenue-producing sports at Georgia pass.
Developmental studies programs were adopted throughout the Georgia state college system in the aftermath of court-ordered desegregation. The Georgia program has unquestionably helped certain individuals, such as former Bulldog fullback Ronnie Stewart. Yet Stewart testified that when he received his degree last year he became only the 15th black athlete ever to graduate from Georgia; the university claims at least 30 black athletes have received degrees.
Stewart described Kemp as a dedicated teacher who once spent 10 hours going over a term paper with him. Kemp "would do anything to help me," said Stewart. Unfortunately, other Georgia educators may have been less interested in helping students than in helping the football and basketball teams.
THE END OF REFORM?
More bad news about college sports: Remember all the fanfare about college presidents getting more involved in their athletic departments? Well, there were indications at last week's NCAA convention in New Orleans that this involvement may be starting to wane. True, the convention formally outlawed the use of street drugs and anabolic steroids and approved Olympic-style drug testing at bowl games and NCAA championships, steps urged by the presidents. It also reaffirmed its support for another rule backed by the presidents, Bylaw 5-1-J, known as Proposition 48 when it was approved in 1983, which sets minimum grade-point averages and standardized test scores for entering athletes. Delegates voted down a move by predominantly black colleges to eliminate standardized tests from entrance criteria.