Not long after registration closed this fall, the GW Office of Academic Support forwarded an e-mail to all the student-athletes concerning a particular class for spring semester. One professor, who teaches a women’s studies class, made it clear that because her class would be located a bit off campus, athletes should factor 20 minutes into their commute from the Smith Center. Tardiness would not be acceptable.
To some this e-mail may seem harsh or biased against student-athletes, but in reality it is a positive step toward improving the communication between academia and athletics. There are plenty of athletes such as myself who care about academics; however, the demands of playing a varsity sport put extra strain on the academic side of this dual role. Because of the added schedule constraints faced by student athletes, the channels of communication must remain open and professors’ expectations of student-athletes need to be made explicit before registration.
Athletes’ rapport with professors varies among nonexistent, tense and good. I appreciate that this particular professor took the opportunity to send out an e-mail that explained her standards. Despite the fact that the professor explicitly stated that she would not tolerate practice as an excuse for tardiness, her e-mail alerts students playing a sport about a possible conflict with that class. This is a luxury that student-athletes have not enjoyed in the past.
Collegiate athletics continues to carry the stigma of being filled with “dumb jocks” who care little about school work and academics. At GW, this stigma is not totally prevalent, yet it does exist. To combat whatever problems athletes face in the classroom, GW provides an academic community with strong support systems for its athletes. The GW Office of Academic Support includes advisers who manage multiple teams in an effort to keep student-athletes eligible and on track for graduation.
In the past, several of my fellow athletes and I have experienced difficulties with professors who wouldn’t accommodate even minimal tardiness due to workouts or games. This always seems to put the athlete in the difficult position of attempting to be in two places at once.
What many professors don’t seem to grasp is that most of the tardiness and missed classes are beyond our control. Plenty of factors contribute to this irritating pattern, such as traffic on the way back to campus from practice, changes in travel schedules or game time changes. Furthermore, athletes are working hard on the field to bring prestige to our University, a worthy goal that complements our endeavors in class.
Opening the channels of communication among athletes, academic advisers and professors would alleviate the tensions that usually arise mid-semester, when a student-athlete begins missing class for competition. The communication does not always need to be initiated by professors, either. Student-athletes should let their adviser know which classes demand full attendance and will not tolerate tardiness. This allows advisers to alert others who intend to take the class, especially if the athlete is planning to take it during his or her season.
GW’s athletes need more of the cooperation that has taken place with the letter sent out by the women’s studies professor. A joint effort between GW professors and the student-athletes is one key element in expunging the “dumb jock” stigma from classrooms. The long-term effects would be beneficial for future student-athletes who would be able to enroll in classes that allow some leeway for practice and games.
These students who play for our school’s various sports teams would be able to take the necessary classes without risking a lower grade mid-semester due to an inflexible professor or a miscommunication about attendance expectations. At the same time, professors would benefit with a more fulfilling discussion from a group of students dedicated to each class.
-The writer, a senior majoring in American
studies, is a Hatchet columnist.