In my role on staff at the university, I’m constantly on the lookout for how Stanford students and faculty are making waves in the blogosphere. As it so happens, a Stanford senior honors thesis by Jonathan Gibbs (’07) recently popped up on TrueHoop — which is not only my favorite basketball blog, but may well be my favorite blog altogether.
In the wake of the Tim Donaghy NBA referee scandal, Gibbs’ honors thesis (Point Shaving in the NBA: An Economic Analysis of the National Basketball Association’s Point Spread Betting Market) has become the buzz of the basketball and Freakonomics blogging communities. TrueHoop has had multiple posts on Gibbs’ work, which include an interview with Gibbs and Prof. Roger Noll chiming in as well. The thesis also makes a cameo on the widely-read Freakonomics blog. The TrueHoop postings are a great read, and I highly recommend them beginning with this one.
One thing I find quite interesting is a general lack of faith displayed toward undergraduate scholarship. In his initial posting on TrueHoop, Henry Abbott captures the essence of this attitude: “Hold the phone: An undergraduate? Do we really have to listen to this?”
I admittedly take this quote out of context, since Abbott clearly appreciates and affirms Gibbs’ work on multiple levels. Nonetheless, I do have a sense that most people (myself included at times) underestimate and underappreciate the intellectual and indeed — moral — contributions of undergraduates in the search for knowledge. Little wonder, then, that Rick Perlstein (ref New York Times essay contest) and others question whether the undergraduate experience has lost its import.
At Stanford, I have been amazed by the extent to which the faculty and administration encourage, nurture, and learn together with the students. There are thousands of students here who, like Gibbs, are pouring their hearts and minds into the creation and metabolization of knowledge and truth. With the advent of blogging and the rise of online communities, perhaps more of these stories — like Gibbs’ — can be told. And slowly, but surely, the intellectual fire that burns quietly and unassumingly in humble honors theses, acts of public service, and dormitory friendships will transform the world.
Ian Hsu (’98), Director of Internet Media Outreach, Office of Public Affairs
Photo credit: Don’t Try This At Home, by David Kozlowski