- 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
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.