The New York Times reports that since 2006 college football national champion contender Auburn University has dropped to number 85 from number 4 among major college football programs in a measurement (the "Academic Progress Rate") of players' progress towards graduation. The steep decline is apparently attributable to corrective action taken after the disclosure that football players had been graduating as sociology majors without taking any classroom courses in that field, relying instead on independent study.
Perhaps this placed too much emphasis on formal course work, calling to mind as it did a wonderful story related by David Halberstam in The Best and the Brightest. It seems that the Harvard Government Department recommended that future Kennedy and Johnson National Security Adviser McGeorge Bundy, who was then a young faculty member, be granted tenure. Reviewing Bundy's credentials, university president James Conant (a chemist by training) was puzzled when he noticed that Bundy had never taken any graduate or undergraduate courses in Government. Assured that this was not a problem for the department, Conant approved the appointment, but said, "Well, it couldn't have happened in Chemistry."
I have no problem believing that it could in Sociology.
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