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Working group discusses student-athlete class attendance

Checking student-athletes' class attendance was at the top of the agenda for the newly-formed Student Athlete Academic Initiatives Working Group's meeting on Monday.

The group, led by Jim Dean and Bubba Cunningham, the executive vice chancellor and athletic director respectively, examined the current system in place for class-checking.

"Class-checking is a common practice at many institutions to insure the student-athletes are in class," said Michelle Brown, a member of the working group and the director of the Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes.

Brown said only three teams class-check — women's basketball, men's basketball and football — and the reports and repercussions are handled by the specific coaches of the teams. 

The group discussed the fairness of only checking the attendance of three teams and whether or not the coaches should be the ones enforcing this.

"It does seem odd that the task of maintaining academic standards is left to the athletics department," said working group member and sociology professor Andrew Perrin.

Anna Agbe-Davies, a member of the working group and anthropology professor, said it seems to be an issue of fairness if only some teams are being checked while others do not face repercussions for missing classes.

Dean said he wanted to make sure the group did not overstep their power and responsibility by doing too much. 

"If the teams want to do this, then I'm not in a position to stand in their way," he said. "I don't think I would approve the move to absorb the responsibility to check classes. I do not think we have the authority to tell the athletic department to enforce attendance."

Dean said class-checking is tough to bring up, comparing it to the TSA at airports.

"Every time I hear class-checking, I wince," Dean said. "It just sounds bad." 

Going off of Dean's statement, Perrin said each athlete is responsible for his or her grades and attendance.

"If we want students to take responsibility for their own educational progress, then we ought to tell them, like any other student, that it is up to you whether or not you go to class," Perrin said. "The course that I teach that are lecture-style, which are quite a few, I don't care if anyone comes — I am happy to lecture to an empty classroom. They will not pass the exam however if you do not attend lecture." 

Brown said checking classes has proven beneficial for athletes' attendance, as well as their corresponding grades. 

Houston Summers, a member of both the working group and the track and field team, said class checking should be used to assist the student-athlete.

"I think the overreaching goal in class-checking is to keep our athletes eligible," Summers said. 

The group's decision to leave the class-checking to the athletic department was appreciated by Cunningham, who acknowledged the reality of attendance problem within the athletic department.

"In an ideal world you wouldn't have to check classes — all kids would go to every class they could," Cunningham said. "Real world, we need to check classes to insure that certain kids are in class."

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