Athletics a strong tool for diversity

College administrators who want to create a community with racial and socioeconomic diversity may find a helpful model in their own athletics programs, according to a study conducted by a research team that included two KU professors.

The study found that athletics programs, some of the most diversity-rich environments on college campuses, were generally successful at bringing together students from disparate backgrounds in order to work together toward achieving a common goal.

For five months, Lisa Wolf-Wendel, assistant professor of teaching and leadership at KU, and two other researchers observed six different athletics programs across the nation. They concluded that college athletics often created successful communities that transcended differences in race, socioeconomic status and geographic background.

The results appear in the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators' Febr-uary 2000 publication, "Diversity on Campus: Reports from the Field." The other researchers involved in the project were Christopher Morphew, assistant professor of teaching and leadership at KU, and J. Douglas Toma, an assistant professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

The study focused on the five intercollegiate sports that typically have the most pronounced racial and ethnic student diversity: football, men's and women's basketball, and men's and women's track and field.

"Intercollegiate athletics get picked on a lot," Wolf-Wendel said. "We always notice when someone cheats or does something wrong ­­ and some of it is deserved ­­ but athletics also do a lot of good things that don't get noticed."

However, the researchers also found that college athletics has its share of obstacles to overcome. There is still a lack of diversity in coaches and department administrators. Furthermore, many subjects expressed a negative response toward the inclusion of homosexual teammates.













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July 14, 2000
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