Kansas University: Now recruiting top AARP prospects

The University of Kansas Athletics Department has taken commitment and accountability to the next level: they have hired a legion of retired-folk (no, not The American Legion, but similar) to assure that their athletes attend class. The full article can be found in the Wall Street Journal’s riveting Life and Culture: Sports section.

First, I’ll set aside all jabs about Duke’s athletic superiority over that of the Jayhawks. Now, let us break down where two ethical questions may arise: one, should these athletes be tracked and two, why do the trackers have to be elderly people?

When I think of college, I think not of more rigorous academics, learning to live with another person, or consuming disgusting amounts of pizza: I think of freedom. Included in my freedom is the choice to attend – or not attend – class. By hiring trackers to check up on these athletes’ attendance, KU is eliminating a fundamental component of the college experience. Should they stigmatize these students on the basis that they are athletes? They forfeit many freedoms when becoming a student athlete, should the liberty to skip class and catch up on sleep every now and then be one of the opportunities forgone?

The plight of student-athletes and their ‘special treatment’ is not as fascinating as my next point: what’s interesting is that KU has set up a game of cat and mouse where the cat happens to have arthritis and the mouse happens to be one of our nation’s top athletes. The decision to hire seniors – as opposed to any other demographic – does logically make sense: the athletes do not easily manipulate them. Sixty-plus years have apparently calloused them from the temptation of free tickets, autographs, etc. Moreover, in theory young people will feel the need to be more morally upstanding when around elders (you steal from your mom’s cookie jar, not your grandmother’s).

Regardless, I maintain that it is awkward – athlete or not – to have a gray-haired man peeping in your class periodically. Also, to what degree does the age of the trackers transform the attendance game into a joke to the athletes? The article illustrates some of the tricks that the athletes pull in attempts to cut class either altogether or to take off shortly after being accounted for. Would they try to slip away if they weren’t dubious about the trackers’ sight and hearing capabilities, issues some of the trackers say make their task more difficult?

I find the program a little too absurd for comfort. Added to the list of reasons why I’m happy to be a Blue Devil: Kyrie Irving can get himself to our Psychology lecture without a senior citizen spying on our class.