The University of Michigan has come under the harsh glare of its local paper, the Ann Arbor News, whose four-day journalistic bonanza investigates the eyebrow-raising activities of the school's athletic department as they pertain to student-athletes.
According to the News:
1. A large number of student athletes have been steered toward a psychology professor's independent study courses over the years. Since the fall 2004, the professor has taught 294 independent studies and 85 percent of those courses were with athletes. According to some students, the three- to four-credit courses met as little as 15 minutes every two weeks, while others admit the courses were used to boost the GPAs of potentially academically ineligible athletes.
2. The News chronicles how tougher curriculum in Michigan's kinesiology department—a former athlete dumping ground—led to a mass exodus of student-athletes to general studies degrees. The change was largely prompted by professors' concern over the growing disparity between athlete and nonathletes. "Who do you teach to?" asks a kinesiology lecturer. "Do you teach to the kids at the top of the scale, or the kids at the bottom? There was no middle."
3. A closer look at the general studies degree: "Of 18 recruited scholarship [football] players in the 2004 freshman class who remained at Michigan long enough to decide on a degree program, the lone exception to the general studies path was defensive back Doug Dutch, a psychology major."
4. And what do academic advisers actually do? Make sure student-athletes remain academically eligible, of course. How do they do it? Encourage the general studies degree, tell athletes which classes to take, and even use the student's password to enroll in courses for them.
The university, meanwhile, has attempted to defend itself, refuting a number of the claims and assuring that "there is no higher priority of the university than the academic success of our students," according to the university provost. The president also chimed in ("We did nothing wrong"), the Michigan Daily reports, and the professor under fire conveyed a similar sentiment directed toward the newspaper: "So after several months, they have put together whatever they could find—a net full of minnows."