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The Dangers of a Sports Empire

In the light of events at Penn State, the AAUP's National Council issued the following statement to remind people of the long-term structural problems that helped make that tragedy possible:

Recent accounts of the systemic cover-up of allegations of sexual assaults on young boys at Penn State indicate that the unchecked growth of a sports empire held unaccountable to the rest of the university community coincided with the steady erosion of faculty governance. Genuine shared governance, which involves meaningful participation by the faculty in all aspects of an institution, could have resulted in these alleged crimes being reported to city and state police years ago, and might have spared some of the victims the trauma they endured, and indeed continue to endure, because of the memories that remain, and the legal and judicial processes they still face.

The national Council of the American Association of University Professors joins with Penn State faculty member Michael Bérubé in calling on the Penn State administration “to begin treating faculty members, and their elected representatives on the Faculty Senate, as equal partners in the institution” ( "At Penn State, A Bitter Reckoning," New York Times, November 17, 2011). At Penn State, and indeed at other institutions across the nation where athletics programs have burgeoned outside of faculty governance structures, the potential for rampant abuse of power remains. The AAUP’s 1989 report “ The Role of the Faculty in the Governance of College Athletics ” recognizes the potential for athletics programs that are independent of the rest of the institution to be egregious examples of misplaced priorities that divert resources from the core academic mission of a university. The report states that, “the time has come to recognize that intercollegiate athletics poses a major governance problem for American colleges and universities governance” and that “the athletic department should not be allowed to function as a separate entity.” The AAUP’s Council, in the earnest hope of preventing abuses of power, suffering of victims, and betrayals of trust, reaffirms the necessity of ensuring meaningful faculty participation in all aspects of institutional governance and, in particular, of athletics programs.

Donna Potts, Chair, AAUP Assembly of State Conferences
Cary Nelson, AAUP President