I wanted to quickly share two items that others have brought to my attention in the last 24 hours.
1) The first, from some of my students – a quote from a long-time critic of college athletics:
“This has been going on for almost 50 years. It is called ‘overemphasis on athletics,’ and everybody deplores it. It has been the subject of scores of reports, all of them shocking. It has been held to be crass professionalism, all the more shameful because it masquerades as higher education. But nobody has done anything about it.”
OK, OK, you’ve heard it all a thousand times by now. What makes this quote fun, though, is that it was uttered by Robert Maynard Hutchins. Hutchins was the president of the University of Chicago who decided that the school would no longer compete in big-time college sports, convincing the trustees to drop football in 1939. He authored the above words in 1938.
2) The second – a just-published study by some colleagues at UNC about the disparity in traffic stops between black and white drivers.
The researchers at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill analyzed more than 1.3 million traffic stops and searches by Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officers for a 12-year period beginning in 2002, when the state began requiring police to collect such statistics. In their analysis of the data, collected and made public by the state’s Department of Justice, the researchers found that black drivers, despite making up less than one-third of the city’s driving population, were twice as likely to be subject to traffic stops and searches as whites. Young black men in Charlotte were three times as likely to get pulled over and searched than the city-wide average.
The study further found that police were more likely to use force during stops involving black drivers and that the disparity has been growing over time in Durham and Raleigh as well other places in North Carolina. A particularly interesting finding was that the more discretion police had in pulling over drivers – true of more minor infractions – the greater the racial disparity. Other researchers had found similar disparities in a study last year in Kansas City.
We’re still waiting on more details from the incident last week in New York in which Thabo Sefolosha’s leg was broken. Needless to say, broad statistical trends don’t necessarily tell us what happens in each individual case. But there’s a context for encounters like the one in New York last week that one has to try really, really hard to ignore.