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In the News 2018

The Trouble with National Signing Day

AN OPINION PIECE by Solomon Hughes (Ph.D. 2013) featured in Inside Higher Ed takes a hard look at national signing day and the media spectacle that surrounds high school athletes and young black men, in particular. Hughes compares the theme of exploitation of black bodies in Jordan Peele’s 2017 film Get Out with the real life atmosphere surrounding collegiate athletics. Hughes writes, “[T]he larger college community … live[s] vicariously through the toil of those athletes—the sacrificial lambs of the religion of college football.”

To turn this around, Hughes encourages high school athletes to do more research before committing to a sports program and to focus on three indicators that often reveal a prioritization of the athlete over the person: high transfer rates (a warning of unfulfilled recruitment promises), low graduation rates (a sign of poor commitment to education), and a lack of diversity in player academic programs (a subordination of classroom endeavors to team demands). His editorial is also a call to action for higher education administrators and sports fans, who may be surprised to learn how poorly the environment and messaging within their athletic programs conform to the institution’s overarching values and mission.

Hughes notes that some programs do have their priorities correct and respect and develop the whole person. If more students, fans, and administrators follow suit by requiring transparency and embracing real change, then more students can avoid the “sunken place.”

The title of Hughes’ essay, “National Sinking Day,” references Peele’s film and equates students’ signing-day commitments to binding agreements to serve time in the “sunken place,” in which their voices will be silenced and “their consciousness held captive while their bodies are used to benefit others.”

Hughes, who is currently assistant director of the EDGE Doctoral Fellowship Program at Stanford University, played Division I basketball and has served as an academic advisor to college athletes at universities with strong football programs.

Breaking It Down: False Equivalency

CELESTE HEADLEE, host of Georgia Public Broadcasting’s radio news show, On Second Thought, invited Ed Lee (Ed.D. 2017) to discuss the origins and impact of false equivalencies in current society. Headlee interviewed Lee as an expert to help unpack the term “false equivalence,” which she defines as a common logical fallacy in which a person “treats two different things equally just because they share one common characteristic.” An assertion that a greyhound and a dachshund have the same odds to win a race because both are hounds is an example of false equivalence.

Lee draws on his experience as a debate coach to break down the terminology and explain the strategy behind setting up false equivalencies. He notes the impulse to create balance or make comparisons can come from a desire for objectivity or fairness but said it is a “dangerous place” in which to operate. He encourages his students to explore all sides, but he expects them to see distinctions and to avoid giving false balance, lending legitimacy and credibility to all perspectives as equal.

Since misinformation can be so persistent and resistant to correction, Lee advises a proactive approach in media and education to teach people how to identify false equivalence, to recognize its dangers, and to help people “think in more nuanced and skeptical ways about the information we are consuming.”

Now in the Top 5

IHE’S GRADUATE programs in higher education administration moved up two spots to be ranked among the Top 5 in the nation in the 2019 edition of U.S. News & World Report’s Best Graduate Schools guidebook. IHE’s programs have ranked in the Top 10 for 12 straight years.

IHE Director Libby Morris acknowledged the success in a University of Georgia Columns article: “The fact that we climbed two spots in the rankings this year is a reflection of the quality of our faculty and programs at the institute and the work we do collectively to explore critical issues in higher education and prepare future leaders. Recent graduates are climbing the ranks of the professoriate ladder, while other alumni are working in senior leadership positions across post-secondary education.” The ratings are based on nominations by deans of graduate programs granting education doctoral degrees and deans of graduate studies, who were asked to choose up to 10 programs of excellence in specialty areas.

Faculty Job Satisfaction

IHE FACULTY MEMBER Karen Webber published a study in TIAA’s Research Dialogue entitled, “The Working Environment Matters: Faculty Member Job Satisfaction by Institution Type.” Her work has received attention from both the Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed. Webber used quantitative survey data and responses to qualitative interviews, conducted at IHE, to dive into institutional determinants that contribute to satisfaction and dissatisfaction. The Chronicle noted that “the qualitative part of the study is what provides a noteworthy glimpse of the lived experience of faculty members, and of how they feel about their work environment.”

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