Academics and Research / Magazine Feature / People

Professor’s stand for academic integrity pays off

Linda Bensel-Meyers, associate professor of English, faced criticism and harassment at her last job. Before she joined the DU faculty in 2003, she was at the University of Tennessee for 14 years, where she exposed academic fraud and favoritism in UT football players’ competitive eligibility. 

Bensel-Meyers has not only left behind those dark times, but now her efforts at UT have been acknowledged. The Drake Group named Bensel-Meyers the 2007 Robert Maynard Hutchins award winner for her courage in standing up for academic integrity. She’ll receive the award at the group’s annual conference in Cleveland on March 29.

As director of writing programs at UT, she oversaw a course sequence required of all students that gave her a glimpse into how the athletic department treated student athletes.

Among her findings, Bensel-Meyers discovered the school had admitted student with test scores far below those of other students. She says many were admitted to UT without the ability to read and write. The university then “warehoused” these athletes in bogus courses that wouldn’t lead to a degree and dismissed them from the university after their last term of competition, she says.

“The white paper I wrote to accompany that report described the athletic department as a plantation system, where the athletes were being exploited as free labor for a lucrative entertainment business without being given access to an education, the athletic scholarship being the intended ‘pay for play,’” Bensel-Meyers says.

Her efforts to expose and stop the fraud weren’t received favorably at UT. Bensel-Meyers encountered a vigorous cover-up by the university and other athletic interests. But that wasn’t the worst of it. She says she received numerous hate e-mails and death threats. Her phone was tapped, her office raided and she was nearly forced off the road. 

“It basically made it difficult for my family to live a normal life, so I applied for and accepted this new position at DU,” she says.

Bensel-Meyers was a charter member and Drake Group former executive director. The group’s vision is to create an atmosphere on college campuses that encourages personal and intellectual growth for all students and demands excellence and professional integrity from faculty. 

At DU, Bensel-Meyers directs undergraduate studies in English and is a professor of renaissance literature and the history and theory of rhetoric. Before she came to DU, she researched the Pioneers athletics program.

“I was impressed that athletes are recruited on the basis of their ability as students as much as their athletic prowess. The ethical mission of DU as a whole makes the climate for athletics here more collegiate than most Division I institutions,” Bensel-Meyers says.

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