The NCAA session on a recent big study about faculty attitudes toward campus athletics was deadly dull. There wasn't one comment or question afterwards from a very large audience. Some people were asleep, some engrossed in their Blackberries, some text messaging... Some, like UD, were gazing at the chandeliered ceiling and thinking about... UD was thinking about old boyfriends...
The session began with an official sounding statement to the audience: "Keep in mind that members of the media may be here."
Yeah, like UD, sitting there with a big orange necklace that said MEDIA... What was the point of the statement? Mind your tongue? The hyper-managed NCAA meeting feels Orwellian enough without this admonition. Maybe the admonition was part of the reason no one stood up to say anything after the presentation.
("We used to wear badges that looked like all the other attendees' badges," the veteran reporter tells UD as they chat about what they're writing. "Now they give us these big necklaces with MEDIA written in huge letters to distinguish us..."
"Why?" asked UD. "Because we're evil?"
"Yes," said another reporter nearby.)
The presentation was a classic death-by-Powerpoint episode. In a low monotone, her head pointed down at the computer screen she read from, the speaker rendered verbally what the screen rendered graphically. "We need to move beyond stereotypes and anecdotes," she began -- true enough, but we don't need to move from them to robotically rendered statistics.
PowerPoint creates an archaic, picaresque world in which one discrete event follows another. You don't really get anywhere; there's no plot because there's no humanity attached to the spectacle. You're moved narrowly and passively from this datum to that.
At one point the woman to my right fell asleep. Then, hearing a cell phone, she jolted awake and rummaged through my bag.
What's wild is that this is an incredibly important and interesting subject, and the basic results of the study were kind of neat -- faculty don't know shit about campus sports... UD, with her involvement in the subject, is a bizarre outlier... But you'd never know that from the Bataan Death March... A guy got up after the Powerpoint and offered concluding platitudes: "We need dialogue and mutual learning."
He then took a swipe at faculty self-importance, professors' belief that they're more important to universities than coaches. The audience woke up and laughed in agreement.