Unequal opportunity given to students

College athletes given advantages in classroom

by: Heidi Krick hkrick@unca.edu

The hits just keep on coming.  UNC Chapel Hill has come under fire during the last few years due to a string of public controversies.  In the hurricane of bad press the school is receiving, who is the real victim? Is it the school fighting negative attention from the press or the student denied a proper education?

Since 2010, UNC Chapel Hill has faced intense scrutiny after allegations of football players receiving improper advantages, and even bribery, prompted an investigation by the National Collegiate Athletic Association.  In May, internal reports claimed between 2007 and 2011, more than 50 courses offered by the university’s department of African and Afro-American studies  showed little to no evidence of teaching to classes filled with student athletes.

In August, a transcript bearing Julius Peppers’ name, a 1998-2001 Tar Heel football and basketball player, first appeared on North Carolina State University message boards.  According to the published document, Peppers entered UNC Chapel Hill, one of the toughest schools in the country, with a grade point average well below the current standard for collegiate athlete eligibility, later graduating with a GPA still below the current eligibility standard.  Also according to the transcript, Peppers’ very slight GPA increase came during the spring and summer of 2001, due to a “B+” received in Black Nationalism and an “A” taken in the summer of 2001 in an African and Afro-American Studies Seminar.

Peppers has since confirmed the now-viral transcript is, in fact, his.  Peppers maintains his credibility, arguing he earned every grade, good or bad, printed on his transcript.  Also adding to the university’s growing controversies, UNC Chapel Hill Chancellor Holden Thorp announced last week he will relinquish his position at the university at the end of the academic year.

Chapel Hill is not the only school caught up in a sea of academic controversy.  Universities around the country have found themselves, at one time or another, amid scandal and controversy.  Just this summer, Harvard University found itself in the middle of the largest cheating scandal ever discovered in the university’s history.

College is incredibly difficult.  A university education can be challenging for even the most studious and dedicated students.  In an age of increasing job competition, a college education has become almost mandatory in order to guarantee individual success.  Unfortunately, the societal mandate for a college education has caused some unforeseen backlash.  The “education” part of college has been lost and since replaced with college “hoop jumping.”

It’s not about the d stination, it’s the journey.  This mantra perfectly resonates with college.  The lessons learned throughout higher education, the time spent at the institution and what is learned during the time spent is now taken for granted.  The importance is now found in the destination, graduation, rather than the journey.

Instead of focusing on the information received throughout college, students today seem focused on simply getting through the classes, passing exams and eventually, walking across the stage as they make their way toward their diploma.  Universities offering easy outs to struggling students, or student athletes, are not helping this growing mentality.

Colleges offer higher education and preparation for students’ futures in order to give them the tools needed to help develop strong and stable careers. How prepared for difficulty will a college student be if they are given answers to assignments, or offered easier classes in order to maintain athletic eligibility?  A more severe danger is placed on student athletes who are denied a proper college education.

A very small portion of college athletes go on to play sports professionally after college.  For the lucky few who do move on to play professional sports, they will play for a very short amount of time, a few years maybe, and then what?  What are we saying to the basketball or football star who is handed a university diploma instead of working toward the accomplishment just as any other non-athletic student would?

These acts say the athlete is only valued as an athlete.  It says an athletic-student’s needs are different and greater than non-student athletes’ needs.  It says student athletes need more help and less work.  It says student athletes do not need to find value in a college education, but value in how well they play ball and how much time they have on the field.

College athletics certainly have their advantages.  Team sports unify students, bring them together in fun and school spirit and create lasting bonds and friendships.  College sports also bring in a ton of money for schools.  Because of the major financial value found in college athletics, student athletes spend a massive amount of time perfecting their skills, and often, their grades suffer for it.

In the case of Julius Peppers, he should never have been eligible to play ball for UNC Chapel Hill from the start.  If a student athlete’s GPA is not strong enough for admittance into a university, he or she should not receive special privileges, regardless of how talented he or she may be.

Students must prove to their institutions they are fully prepared for the demands higher education places on them.  Student athletes particularly ought to be held to the same standards as every other student admitted and attending, as they often have a much busier schedule than most students to manage.  Accepting students and student athletes who are unprepared for the challenges faced in college not only sets the student up for failure, but also shows the entire national university system that particular schools’ priorities are far from where they ought to be, properly educating students and preparing them for a challenging, fulfilling career.

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