Tuesday, January 15, 2008

How do we study diversity?

I received an email a little while ago announcing a new partnership between Texas A&M and the NCAA through the former's Laboratory for Diversity in Sport.
I am pleased the NCAA is doing more than speaking about its commitment to diversity (a la Myles Brand's state of the association speech the other day) by putting some dollars behind it. But I find the announcement (linked above) so very strange. Perhaps it is because I come from a humanities background and not the social sciences (despite my attempts to "pass"), but I just find it so odd that we're going to study diversity in a laboratory. What does that look like exactly?
Lab, to me, implies testing of subjects. In a kinesiology department (which the Laboratory for Diversity in Sport is associated with), I picture athletes on treadmills or other such human subject experiments based around performance. But when we are looking at how to increase diversity in intercollegiate athletics, how do you test for that?
I don't doubt that the researchers involved in this project know what they're doing, but I still wonder how we can take such complicated concepts like race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, and even diversity itself--all constructions, all inextricably intertwined, all variable depending on culture and historical moment--and test for them, or about them.
So I am eager to see what comes out of this partnership, the work that is generated and how it contributes to the laudable and quite necessary goal of increasing diversity in athletics.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The "lab" at Texas A&M is probably not a lab in the traditional sense. More than likely, it's just a space to do interviewing and have faculty meet with graduate students to talk about projects. Also, it's probably more like a computer lab that has quantitative software to analyze data.

I'm a grad student at a university that does diversity research (not A&M), and I'm bothered by the exclusive partnership. A&M does good research but the NCAA should spread the wealth. A&M does quantitative studies mostly which is why their research is so attractive to the NCAA. The NCAA rarely funds anything qualitative.