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Tuesday March 21st

Faculty discussed student athlete absences, outcome gaps for Black athletes and more

<p>UNC Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham and Jaye Cable discuss the minutes during the Faculty Executive Committee Meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019.&nbsp;</p>
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UNC Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham and Jaye Cable discuss the minutes during the Faculty Executive Committee Meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019. 

Members of the Faculty Athletics Committee met Thursday to discuss changes being made to the approved absence protocol for student athletes, the concerns of UNC’s academic outcome gaps for Black student athletes and California’s new law allowing student athletes to form endorsement deals and hire agents.

University Approved Absences

Debbi Clarke, consultant to the Provost, gave an update on the revised University Approved Absence Policy. The revision includes creating a central office for University approved absences. 

Committee member and professor Aimee McHale had concerns with the new policy regarding its removal of travel letters that student athletes typically deliver to faculty. 

“I understand one of the reasons for getting rid of the travel letters is the angst that it causes the student athletes to have to give their travel letter to the faculty members,” McHale said. “But it doesn’t obviate the actual having a conversation about, ‘How I am going to make up work.'" 

Clarke addressed concerns by saying the process does not exist yet for student athletes, but the interaction will still have to happen. 

“When they have an approved absence, they have to coordinate with a faculty member regardless of the reason of the approved absence," Clarke said. "It is just up to the student to say ‘I have a religious observance, I have an NCAA competition or I’m not going to say why, I mean I just have an approved absence how can I work with you to make up that assessment,’ so the conversation still has to happen but now it’s up to the student to decide whether or not they want to disclose."

Academic outcome gap for Black student athletes

Erika Wilson, chairperson in public policy and director of clinical programs at the UNC School Of Law, is a member on the committee. 

Wilson gave an update on the committee’s research on the academic outcome gap for Black student athletes compared to other student athletes.

“One of the things that the data helped to understand that this is not, we’ve been talking about this in terms of a Black male gap, but this is a Black athlete gap, it’s not just males, it’s women too," Wilson said. "It is an important thing to know because it suggests that it is a broader problem."

Using data gathered, Wilson put together a proposal to help close this outcome gap. The plan includes both curriculum and atmospheric solutions. 

Wilson said the first thing to recognize is that there is an atmospheric issue for Black athletes and Black students in general.

A beginning recommendation is to catalog the existing resources that are on campus to try and address these atmospheric issues, she said. 

“These are students that have complex stories and issues that may be impeding their abilities,” Wilson said. “So one of the things that we could think about is employing a social worker who might be able to provide services to address things that we don’t see, that are not concretely academic issues to help with some of the performance issues.”

Other recommendations were geared toward curriculum. One in particular noted that student athletes do better in smaller classes, especially as first-year students.

The members discussed ways to raise the number of smaller classes offered, since, for example, there is a current two-per-semester limit regarding first-year seminars. 

Student athletes receiving compensation

Lissa Broome, a professor and director of the Center for Banking and Finance at the UNC School of Law, is a faculty athletics representative. 

While giving her report of updates, Broome mentioned California’s recent legislation regarding the compensation of student athletes. 

She said the NCAA board of governors has formed a federal and state legislative group to talk about student athlete name, image and likeness and how student athletes may or may not profit off of that, including selling autographs or jerseys. 

Broome said other states are following behind California, forcing the NCAA to address the issue and potentially make changes to NCAA rules. 

Committee member and professor in the History Department William Sturkey said he wanted to know how this California law would affect NCAA athletes. 

Director of Athletics Bubba Cunningham explained his thoughts on the implication of these changes.

“If the law in California goes through and that becomes the status quo, I mean basically it’s a free market that anyone can trade their name, image and likeness,” Cunningham said. “That will fundamentally change college athletics because there will be no restrictions on what you can generate, and so a basketball player in North Carolina is certainly going to be more valuable for his name, image and likeness than a basketball player, at, you know, pick any other university.”

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