By Gary Brown
After addressing issues such as student-athlete health and how a slumping economy affects intercollegiate athletics, speakers at the fourth annual NCAA Scholarly Colloquium on College Sports next month will turn their attention to sport’s impact in the social justice arena.
Tuesday, January 11, 1:15-2:45 p.m.
Tuesday, January 11, 3-4:30 p.m.
Wednesday, January 12, 10-11:30 a.m.
Wednesday, January 12, 1:45-3:15 p.m.
Tuesday, January 11, 4:45-6 p.m. (Session 1-A – Intersections of Race, Gender, Culture, and Identity)
Tuesday, January 11, 4:45-6 p.m. (Session 1-B – The Gender Critique: Contextualizations, Negotiations, and Collisions in Intercollegiate Sport)
Wednesday, January 12, 8:30-9:45 a.m. (Session 2-A – Matters of Justice for Student Athletes: Ethics, Policies and Social Support)
Wednesday, January 12, 8:30-9:45 a.m. (Session 2-B – Sex, Sexuality and Transgender: Challenges and Opportunities for Intercollegiate Athletics)
The Colloquium is Jan. 11-12 in conjunction with the NCAA Convention in San Antonio.
Scholars Allen Sack from the University of New Haven; Harry Edwards from the University of California, Berkeley (emeritus); Susan Cahn from the University at Buffalo, The State University of New York; and Ted Fay from the State University of New York at Cortland are this year’s plenary presenters. They’ll offer a menu of thought-provoking topics ranging from student-athletes’ rights to racial, gender and physical equality.
“The ‘social justice’ theme is a timely topic, and we had an easy time attracting speakers,” said Scott Kretchmar, who has chaired the Colloquium’s editorial and advisory board since the event was first staged at the 2008 NCAA Convention. “In fact, with so many social justice issues out there, the committee had a hard time deciding what to allocate a major session to.”
Sack leads off the conference with a discussion of how the NCAA is fulfilling its mission when it comes to integrating athletics in an educational context. Edwards examines the African-American experience in college sports, while Cahn focuses on how transgender participants affect women’s sports. Fay concludes the conference with a look at the college experience for disabled student-athletes.
“This year’s topic is perhaps broader than any we’ve had,” said Jan Boxill, professor of philosophy at North Carolina and chair of the 2011 Colloquium committee. “And as happens in most conferences, you can’t cover everything you’d like within the topic itself. That’s why we selected four areas: athletes’ rights and justice issues; sport and race; sport, gender and sexual equality; and sports and disabilities.”
The Colloquium began with support from the late NCAA President Myles Brand, who wanted to jump-start scholarly research on college athletics – in part because he knew it was a topic worth studying and also to generate more empirical data upon which the NCAA could base policy decisions.
Kretchmar and Boxill agreed that the event has gained momentum not only as an interesting event but as an attraction for scholars. In that way, Brand’s idea of priming the research pump has been fulfilled.
That is evidenced by the rising number of “free papers” that have been submitted in the last two years. The first Colloquium relied exclusively on the four plenary speakers, but subsequent versions have introduced the free-paper sessions to accommodate worthy studies from additional scholars. Kretchmar said a record 46 abstracts were submitted this year, and with room for just 16 papers over the two days, many had to be turned down.
“It reflects the popularity of the topic and the fact that more people are doing research on college sports,” he said. “It’s a positive reflection on the Colloquium, since people regard it as an attractive place to share their research. And, as Myles had wanted, it demonstrates an increase in research on intercollegiate athletics. From the outset, he wanted the Colloquium to serve as a catalyst and a stimulus for good research.”
Submissions to the Colloquium’s offshoot publication, the Journal of Intercollegiate Sport, also have skyrocketed. The Journal is published twice a year, one issue that contains the four Colloquium papers from that year and another that publishes juried selections.
“The general quality of the articles is much better now, as well,” Kretchmar said.
Boxill credits the Colloquium and the Journal for generating interest among an audience that may previously have been neglected.
“There has been some frustration from scholars who want to research intercollegiate athletics but hadn’t had the outlet for it,” she said. “There are various meetings like the International Association for the Philosophy of Sport, the History of Sport, Sociology of Sport, but nowhere where all of these could come together. The Colloquium isn’t an event with an ‘agenda,’ but an open forum where all the academic issues people want to address can in fact be addressed.”
Kretchmar said that’s just what Brand had intended.
“Myles was interested in getting good scholarship applied to sport, but he was not interested in attracting polemical or controversial or over-the-top kinds of scholarship that sometimes shows up when you introduce this kind of platform,” he said. “I think we’ve gotten past what I would call ‘the uncertainty phase’ of the relationship.”
Brand’s widow, Peg, is slated to give one of the free papers on Tuesday, Jan. 11. Her selection is titled, “Elusive Justice: Contextualizing Gendered Bodies in Sport.”
Allen Sack, director, Institute for Sports Management, University of New Haven (“Implications for Athletes’ Rights”). Sack’s research has focused on topics ranging from sport and ethnic cleansing in the Balkans to sport in higher education. He is a frequent guest columnist in major newspapers and has appeared on ESPN, Good Morning America and other television and radio shows. He earned his B.A. from Notre Dame in 1967, where he played on Ara Parseghian’s 1966 national championship football team. Sack received his Ph.D. in sociology from Penn State in 1974.
Presentation abstract: Most major organizations have mission statements that define their purpose or reason for existing. A mission statement is meaningful only if it acts as a unifying force for guiding strategic decision-making and achieving long-term goals. Well-defined mission statements also serve as a yardstick for measuring organizational effectiveness in attaining stated goals. With this is mind, the purpose of this paper is to discuss methods that can be used to determine whether the NCAA is actually achieving its educational goals or merely using its mission statement as ideological support. I will also comment on the implications of the NCAA’s statement of purpose for athletes’ rights.
Harry Edwards, Professor Emeritus of Sociology, University of California, Berkeley (“Developments at the Interface of Race, Sport and Society at the Onset of the Second Decade of the 21st Century”). Edwards was a scholarship student-athlete at San Jose State and graduated in 1964 with high honors. He was awarded a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship and a University Fellowship to Cornell, where he completed a M.A. and a Ph. D. in sociology. He was professor of sociology at California from 1970 to 2000. He is considered a leading authority on developments at the interface of race, sport and society, and a pioneer in the development of the sociology of sport as an academic discipline in America.
Presentation abstract: A survey and analysis of social, cultural and political factors and forces contouring and configuring the state and trajectory of African-American sports involvement. Issues include the circumstances and conditions of the traditional Black community; educational challenges for Blacks; race and justice; the “collegiate athletics arms race;” and globalization and its impact on sports and society.
Susan Cahn, Professor of History, University at Buffalo, The State University of New York (“Sport, Gender and Sexual Equality”). Cahn, who received her Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota in 1990, specializes in U.S. women’s history and the history of sexuality. She also teaches courses in southern history, history of adolescence and disability studies. Her major publications include three books, including “Sexual Reckonings: Southern Girls in a Troubling Age” (Harvard University Press, 2007). Her current research concerns the history of mental and chronic illness, and their gendered dimensions.
Presentation abstract: Caster Semenya is a South African sprinter whose world championship victory led to questions about her “biological sex,” with accusations that she was more biologically male than female. Whether there is any truth to the claim, experts estimate that only one in 2,000 persons are born with some kind of ambiguity of sex or, in current medical-speak, Disorders of Sex Development. In my talk, I argue that Semenya’s predicament is highly relevant to the general situation of women’s sports in North America and beyond. I relate Semenya’s seemingly singular predicament to two recurrent dilemmas. The first is a problem common to both feminism and women’s sports: How should feminists/women’s sports advocates approach the question of sexual difference? Do we accept some notion of either natural or social sex/gender difference and work with a two-gender model (sex segregation) or push for total integration on the rationale that gender is a socially constructed difference? The second problem probes the astounding increase in the acceptance and sheer numbers of girls and women in sports over the last four decades, asking why – despite such progress – many indicators point to a lasting association between athletic women and masculinity (and lesbianism). I make the case that the problems of everyday athletes have everything to do with the public shaming of Caster Semenya and the strategic dilemma of how feminism tries to liberate the female body.
Ted Fay, Professor of Sport Management, Center for Sport in Society, State University of New York at Cortland (“Sports and Disabilities”). Fay, who holds a Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, has served as a Senior Research Fellow at the Center for the Study of Sport in Society at Northeastern University and as a strategic consultant related to the Center’s research and academic program initiatives. He has focused much of his scholarly work on diversity and social justice issues involving a sport context, with a particular emphasis on individuals with disabilities. Fay is recognized as an international expert on issues related to the integration and inclusion of athletes with a disability in mainstream sport. He was involved in the drafting of Article 30.5 of the United Nations Convention on the Human Rights for Persons with a Disability that addresses involving culture, leisure and sport.