Duke Basketball Celebration Annoys Professors

A celebration on the Duke campus honoring the Blue Devil’s fourth national championship in men’s basketball has ruffled some academic feathers. William C. Rhoden reports:

From the outside, Duke University’s relationship with its basketball program is Camelot — a peaceful intersection of top-flight Division I athletics, research and scholarship. And yet, tension exists.

On Monday, the men’s basketball team brought honor, glory and global visibility to the university by winning its fourth national championship, all under Coach Mike Krzyzewski. A celebration for the team was held the following afternoon on campus at a packed Cameron Indoor Stadium.

One problem. The midday ceremony violated an internal Duke agreement established in 2006 that no such celebrations would be held during precious class time.

The 2006 agreement was spearheaded by Richard Hain, a math professor at Duke since 1991, who waged a four-year campaign to limit those activities to evening hours. Hain sent me an e-mail message about the breach and also formally complained to university officials. “This is the first time since that agreement was made that Duke’s men’s BB team has been to the Final Four,” Hain wrote. “This year, the agreement was completely ignored.”

In a telephone interview on Wednesday, Provost Peter Lange, who negotiated the original agreement with Hain, said: “There was a planning meeting, and someone at the meeting was assigned to check in with me about whether there was an agreement. That person never got in touch with me.” Hain asked, “How can somebody schedule a major event that wipes out basically all undergraduate classes the whole afternoon, without talking to the provost?” Lange added, “That mistake obviously is never going to be made again because, obviously, now everybody’s aware of the mistake.”

The team, flying back from Indianapolis, arrived an hour late, further disrupting students’ schedules.

So what’s the big deal? For Hain, the big deal is twofold. “It may seem like a trivial matter,” he said in a phone interview Wednesday, “except that some courses, like some math courses, run on a very tight schedule, and it is difficult to cope with the loss of one class period.”

When I was teaching at Troy, it was a constant losing battle for the faculty against an administration that would cancel classes at the drop of a hat. Virtually anything was deemed more important than going to class. And, if classes weren’t canceled, whole swaths of students would be excused from class to go do something else.

It’s hard to get overly upset at celebrating a national championship. The basketball team previously did it in 1992, 1992, and 2001.  So, no undergraduate should have missed more than a couple of classes over it given the spread.  Even those who graduated in 1992 and were thus hit with the double whammy likely managed to get a decent education.  Of course, if they also canceled classes when the women’s golf team win championships, the problem would be compounded.  They’ve won five since 1999.

The problem is that classes also get canceled for bad weather and the occasional campus-wide “big event.”  Further, profs themselves tend to cancel a few classes to attend to other professional obligations, such as academic conferences.   It all adds up.

via Inside Higher Ed

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. 11B40 says:


    I’m not sure I understand your point, but, to me, this is another example of the tyranny of a small minority of a small minority. Who designated Professor Hain as the official Keeper of Academic Truth? So, the good Professor gets together with the good Provost Lange and determines that all subjects will obey because, heck, professors and provosts just know better. Gimme a break.