By Ken Reed
Harvard University is investigating the possibility that nearly half the students in a Introduction to Congress course had committed “academic dishonesty” on a take-home final last spring, either by collaborating on the test with other students — despite explicit instructions from the instructor not to — or plagiarizing answers outright. Several of the students involved are reported to be varsity athletes at Harvard.
According to a New York Times article written by Richard Perez-Pena, “The course had a reputation for easy grading and little required effort, so it had a large contingent of student athletes looking to make room for their time commitment to sports, according to the students.”
The Introduction to Congress course had 279 students and well over 100 are under suspicion for cheating on the final. That would make this scandal Harvard’s largest case of cheating in memory, according to Perez-Pena. The students could face possible suspension from the school for a year if found guilty of academic dishonesty. As such, some of the suspected students have decided to take a leave of absence from the school rather than face possible suspension for a year. A Sports Illustrated report said that one of the students taking a leave of absence was Kyle Casey, a star basketball player for Harvard.
Harvard has been accused of loosening academic standards for star athletes in recent years. In particular, the Harvard basketball program under current head coach Tommy Amaker, a long-time assistant coach at Duke University, has been suspected of admitting athletes that wouldn’t qualify under standards for the rest of the student body. Amaker and Harvard officials deny the allegations but Pete Thamel, the writer who claimed Harvard lowered its academic standards for basketball players when Amaker arrived on campus sticks by his New York Times story:
“Harvard can play semantic gymnastics, but it was laid out to me convincingly and on the record that they were lowering standards,” according to Thamel. “And they’ve only made it worse by denying it. The point of those Harvard stories was that Harvard is playing ball like everyone else — loosening academic standards, sending an assistant out on unethical recruiting trips, and cutting recruited kids from the program in September without having them try out.”
Harvard’s not alone in terms of being accused of cutting standards for athletes in the Ivy League. Penn has long been charged with having an unfair advantage because of purported lower academic standards, and virtually all of the other Ivies have had similar accusations tossed their way at one time or another.
Amaker took Harvard to its first Ivy League title and NCAA tournament appearance. So, from one perspective, Harvard’s Amaker Experiment has paid off. But at what price?
To be sure, the win-at-all-costs mentality exists in the Ivy League, just as it does in all the big-time conferences. The question is to what degree.
It certainly isn’t safe any longer to point to the Ivy League as an example of college athletics done correctly.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world, with over 150 camps in 30+ U.S. states and Canada. We discuss problems in youth sports today, including single sport specialization, the growing gap between the “haves” and “have-nots,” the high drop-out rate in competitive sports, and the growing mental health challenges young athletes are dealing with today.
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Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.”
Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Episode #24 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Mental Health and Athletes: Ending the Stigma – Nathan Braaten and Taylor Ricci are the founders of Dam Worth It, a non-profit created to end the stigma around mental health at colleges and universities through sport, storytelling, and community creation.
Episode #23 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Olympian Benita Fitzgerald Mosley Talks Title IX, Youth Sports and the Olympics.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- League of Fans Sports Policy Director Ken Reed quoted in Washington Post column titled "What happened to P.E.? It’s losing ground in our push for academic improvement," by Jay Mathews
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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