Tag Archives: Emmett Gill

Go to college or get paid? Mr. Jennings I Ain’t Mad At You!

By Dr. Emmett Gill

Last Tuesday, Arizona University basketball recruit Brandon Jennings decided to make an unprecedented move to forgo playing in college and instead pursue a professional career in Europe next season before likely entering the 2009 NBA draft.

 While David Stern and the National Basketball Association (NBA) are well prepared for the subsequent trend Jennings may incite, universities with big-time basketball programs will soon learn the true value of a big-time student-athlete.  Universities will no longer be privileged to the best athletic talent because an 18-year old could use $500,000 tax-free dollars until he is eligible to play in the NBA. Players must be one year removed from high school before they’re eligible to play in the NBA. Teams, athletic departments, and yes academics may experience some uncomfortable times if top-flight basketball students decide to study abroad in Europe. I have experienced firsthand how athletic success can breath life into a universities and how a lack of athletic success can suck the life out of campus spirit.  When our team gets invited to the big dance or to go bowling the entire campus, even professors, go mad! When the donations from athletic boosters start to slide, marketing deals that carry free cable begins to subside, or enrollment dips, remember Mr. Jennings. 

 As a former student-athlete I still believe an undergraduate degree is like a union card and graduate degree can be an American Express Black card.  Even so, I fully support Jennings’ decision.  Back in the day the notion was that “student-athletes need an education to fall back on just in case…” Just in case can always happen, but if it does it’s unlikely “just in case” will prevent Jennings from pursuing a degree.  Secondly, I believe student-athletes who compete in the big five sports -– football, basketball, women’s basketball, soccer, and baseball — should be paid – period.  We can chat about the logistics later, but it’s feasible, trust me.  You have to pay the workers. As much respect as I have for the NCAA and the efforts they dedicate to student-athlete development, neither the NCAA nor member institutions can ensure kids receive functional degrees.  Until they set aside a trust fund for student-athletes who graduate (an idea proposed by former UNC Tarheel and current TNT analyst Kenny “The Jet” Smith 15 years ago) the Jennings effect is a threat.  You oftentimes hear of basketball coaches who will “hug a thug,” meaning they will get marginal athletes in school or you hear “one and done” (in school for one year – see Michael Beasley and Derrick Rose). Those days may be gone, but is it for the better?

 Mr. Jennings is primed to make more money in one year than a top-flight law school graduate might make in their first three. As much as we might want to mentor student-athletes and expose them to life outside basketball… raise your hand if you would go hoop for $500,000-plus tax-free dollars.  That’s what I thought …not that I would ever trade in the social capital I reap from academia …

I never heard of this kid so I’m unsure of his academic or his athletic prowess.  Still, when Mr. Jennings travels overseas I am sure he will have some field instruction/classes in foreign language, contracts, investment banking, etiquette, social history, and of course basketball.  If you think about it Mr. Jennings’ course load might mirror a freshman at the Wharton School of Business… and Mr. Jennings is getting PAID.

Dr. Gill is an assistant professor in the School of Social Work at Rutgers University.

The Miseducation of a Negro Male Assistant Professor

By Emmett Lee Gill, Jr., PhD, MSW

 When I thought about pursuing my terminal degree I really dedicated little thought to all the components of a J-O-B in academia.  I pondered the research I would have to do, but the teaching and service components were truly afterthoughts.  I assumed these elements would naturally come with the territory  - you know they would be integrated into my game plan.  In particular, I thought the teaching would be less challenging because I know my research methods and behavioral theory, I wanted students to learn, and I would avoid grade inflation.  I was a miseducated Negro male assistant professor.  I characterize myself as miseducated during my first two years because teaching in higher education has assumed a business model, and it has been adventurous to navigate to say the least. The consumer (i.e., the student) must be satisfied with their grade. Intellectual stimulation, new competencies, and the rigors of writing and creative thinking are of little value.  Yet, I knew this because not long ago I sat on the other side of the speaking lantern. 

My miseducation emanates from my miscalculation of the intersection between consumer satisfaction and the professors’ race.  As I approach my third year review and I reflect on my years at a research one institution, I have wondered privately and publicly whether I would have experienced some of the issues I have if I were a White sports scholar activist.  During my short sojourn I have had more students than I care to mention… threaten to challenge grades, speak to colleagues about my/our classes, actually challenge their grades, tell mistruths about our verbal interactions, or flat out curse me out. One student stared me down and then slammed the door so hard that my 6’1”, 180 lbs. frame starting shaking so bad I had to call a 30-minute break.  When I shared this with my incredibly supportive Dean he asked if it was racism and I said no because it was coming from blacks and whites. Sexism? Racism? Ageism? I am not sure, but like Duke Lacrosse something is going on. It’s enough to make you think twice whether to maintain your values and not give grades or make it easy on everyone.   

Students who trash me on www.ratemyprofessor.com often write that I am arrogant and to a certain degree it is true.  Arrogance (i.e., confidence and consistency) is a trait I’ve had to learn.  I am in a small minority in a competitive profession that requires precise writing, frequent oratories, quick responses to questions when there are very few “right” answers, and the self-motivation to succeed with very little supervision. I am an introvert so if I do not wake up each morning with a little confidence I would be eaten alive – in class, faculty/committee meetings, presentations, and parenting (lol).  Arrogant a little, but how self-absorbed is a Negro male assistant professor who… delays his papers so students can finish assignments from other classes, wears jeans and caps to class, teaches theory using television programming, provides work for students in need, and holds some classes over meals… be? There are also those who give me good ratings on www.ratemyprofessor.comand I appreciate it when my “kids” show me love. Muchas gracias!

When I entered the NBA of education I truly believed that I was prepared to quickly become an all-star. I cannot say I never thought about race, but my first two years teaching in the league have not been injury free. My miseducation has caused me to suffer some sprains, bruises, and maybe a concussion or two.  Thankfully I have many supportive colleagues and satisfied consumers on my team.  Moreover, I love this game… and with the grace of God and a little more schooling… I can help other miseducated Negro male assistant professors.

Emmett Gill is an assistant professor at Rutgers, The State University, School of Social Work.