Boxing, El Paso and 'Academically Adrift'

April 30, 2012

The fight is back on. Last week, El Paso civic leaders reacted with outrage to the news that Francisco G. Cigarroa, chancellor of the University of Texas System, had canceled a planned boxing match in the Sun Bowl, which is part of the University of Texas at El Paso, citing unspecified security risks. The reaction was intense in El Paso, with many saying that the chancellor was playing into unreasonable fears about safety in El Paso because of its proximity to Mexico. On Friday, however, Cigarroa reversed himself, and outlined a series of security steps that he said would "mitigate" the security issues associated with the event.

Before he reversed himself, the chancellor's decision led to widespread speculation about why he was opposed to the fight. And that speculation led to exposure for Academically Adrift, a book sharply critical of the quality of higher education, in the nation's boxing press. Bob Arum, promoter of the fight, said that he believed Texas might be punishing him for comments made by Richard Arum, his son and a co-author of Academically Adrift. The younger Arum, a professor at New York University, was recently quoted in The Washington Post suggesting that students at the University of Texas at Austin don't learn very much. Richard Arum told Yahoo! Sports: "This is a crazy situation.... It's hard for me to believe it's connected to my criticisms and the book. However, the timing of things is an incredible coincidence." Texas officials responded to the alleged link between the criticism and the boxing match decision by pointing to the official statement on the match, which cited only security issues.


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