The origin of the Drake Group dates back to 1999 when Jon Ericson, the former provost at Drake University invited a fairly large group of reform-minded faculty, athletic administrators, journalists, and activists of various types to a two-day “think tank” on how to restore academic integrity in collegiate sports.
Ericson wanted universities to explain how athletes who are admitted by much lower standards than other students, including some who read at the fifth grade level, are able to give most of their time to sports and still remain eligible.
Ericson was never able to come up with a workable system of disclosure, but the spirit of his passionate commitment to restoring academic integrity has been preserved by the Drake Group’s annual ritual of bestowing the Robert Maynard Hutchins Award on a faculty or staff member who demonstrates exceptional courage by publically disclosing academic corruption on their campuses. View past Hutchins Award winners.
Without exaggeration one could argue that the greatest service performed by the Drake Group over the past decade has been coming to the defense of “whistle blowers.” For instance, the truly heroic efforts of Mary Willingham and Jay Smith to disclose “paper classes” at the University of North Carolina over the past couple of years may do more to restore academic integrity in higher education than millions spent on antitrust lawsuits.
Watch Jay Smith’s acceptance speech on the transformational effects of the college education.