Professor to Fail Student for Playing Volleyball. Spike that, Kid.

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November 21, 2013 by gregrabidoux2013

women volleyball

Biology final. Check. Winning spike. Check.

So, a biology professor at East Central College in Missouri reportedly plans to fail one of her students, a female volleyball player by the name of Hannah Leslie. Why, you ask? Seems if this student, a first-year scholarship NJCAA D2 player, misses one more class due to Volleyball it’s game, set and match, grade-wise. Hannah had missed 3 previous biology lectures delivered by Dr. Parvadha Govindaswamy, known as Dr. “Parva Go” this semester due to her volleyball participation. Despite each absence being excused by the school’s athletic director and Hannah apparently making the work up, Dr. P simply had enough of the sport pulling Hannah away from the dissecting of frogs. Spike all you want Hannah just not on Dr. P’s watch.

This got me thinking. You see, I have been teaching higher education for over 15 years. Most of it has been as a full-time faculty, other stints as an adjunct faculty member while working full-time in politics or law. No matter, a semester hasn’t gone by where I didn’t have to deal with student-athletes missing my profound and earth-shattering lectures, quizzes, even tests. With few exceptions, the absences were all documented. The athlete was where they were supposed to be for the team, while the student part of the equation had to make up all work missed with my approval or risk a grade demotion.

Now these are not situations where if I failed a student-athlete by the name of say, Johnny Manziel, the whole team, state, nation and the NFL would hunt me down and penalize me for excessive use of force. But still, I’ve had students from the major sports at most colleges and universities like basketball, football, soccer, baseball, softball, swimming, volleyball and yes, even my fave, tennis, all miss several of my classes while pursuing their sports commitment. Nearly all of these students were on full or partial scholarship. Translation? Higher education for nearly all of these student-athletes was simply not an option if not for their sports participation.

johnny manziel cash

Student-Athlete Johnny Manziel. What biology final?

Now, for a confession of mine. Some of my best students have been student-athletes. Again, we’re not talking about students who are basically playing one or two years before jumping pro. These kids are working their butts off with early morning and afternoon practices most of the year and long, demanding regular season matches and even more demanding tournament schedules. All with the expectation that well, whatever work you miss you make up on your time, if any such time actually exists.

After their college sporting “glory” ends? Well, for 99% of them there’s no pot of professional “gold” waiting at the end of the rainbow. No sports agents, no adoring fans, no multi-million dollar contracts. No Nike endorsements.

Do I have empathy with my academician colleagues who must make their own judgment “calls” on how much or how little to compromise with student-athletes over missed class and lecture time? Of course. The phrase is student-athlete, not solely athlete or exclusively student.

But long after they forget lectures about biological bacteria and they will, or about how many US Federal Departments there are (15 by the way) and they will, they will much more likely remember the lessons about life, teamwork and leadership that collegiate sports provides. And about compromise that allows students and faculty to each be respected and feel good about choices they made in life at any age.

women's v ball

Long after college, I’ll remember how this shot felt!

Here’s hoping Hannah and her teammates, the Lady Falcons, spike the heck out of the ball in Toledo, Ohio where the national championships are being held. And upon her return she spikes her Biology final for an “A.”

bengal-tiger-why-matter_73410431.jpg

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13 thoughts on “Professor to Fail Student for Playing Volleyball. Spike that, Kid.

  1. As a former NCAA All-American student-athlete on scholarship it was always a challenge juggling grades and sports. If I ever got less than a B grade the scholarship was over. Thankfully I was able to keep up my grades up but the reality for many of us is work, work and then a little more work. Maybe this volleyball player was failing anyways, who knows? But as you make clear the vast majority of us are never getting Nike endorsements or going pro. But our accomplishments will stay with us forever!

  2. Cara Robinson says:

    This seems a bit ridiculous to me. I’m in the Honors College, and I’m not saying it’s exactly like being a student-athlete, but there is a similarity in which both groups have requirements they have to fulfill in order to receive a scholarship. Honestly, without the money I receive from scholarships, I would not be able to attend college, and I understand this student’s willingness to do what she needs to do to keep the scholarship. I especially don’t see any problem with a student missing class for an excused reason if he or she is completing the work in a timely manner. Plus, VSU has a six class minimum that you can miss and still get credit, so far Hannah has only missed three. As long as she is keeping up with her work, and managing to balance the precarious life of a student-athlete, she should be allowed to stay in the course without any penalties.

  3. Taylor Holder says:

    I think that student athletes should not be punished because they are involved in extracurricular activities with the university. If a student chooses not to attend class and take their schooling seriously then I do believe that they should fail. However, being a student athlete myself I can say that it is extremely hard to miss class and have to make up all the work that comes along with this. Between schoolwork and volleyball, I have a small fraction of the free time that other students have to get things done. Especially since sports help pay for these students educations I do not think that they should be penalized in their education. School work and attending class is extremely important but I think that as long as the athletes make up their work they should not have to suffer for participating in an activity that helps represent their university in a good way.

  4. Dodge Tomlinson says:

    This seems to be a little absurd. However, not knowing the entire story does distort my view. A student-athlete though, has no control over whether or not they can miss a class. An excused absence by the Athletic Director, no matter how annoying, is a legit excuse. The student-athlete should not be punished for attending college and participating in athletics. Many student-athletes would not be in college without an athletic scholarship. As long as they are trying there best to manage both tasks at hand there should never be a penalty like this brought against them.

  5. donna says:

    This young lady had a b+ in the class when this all occurred. I have the distinct misfortune of living in this very bizarre place. Believe me, you should hear some of the other stuff that happens around here. I am sorry that Hannah was screwed over by the same institution that was paying her to play volleyball. What a joke! I would give hannah the same advice I give my own kids: make good grades keep your nose clean, and as soon as you can, run run run away from here.

  6. Sharriette F says:

    Shame on Hannah’s teacher for not being more understanding. If Hannah does not show up for the volleyball practices and games for which she is receiving the collegiate scholarship, there will be no Biology classes or any other classes. She would lose her scholarship. This would be a different story if Hannah were not making up the work, or if her absences were not legitimate. It’s unfair and discriminatory for Hannah to be given an ‘F’ when she earned a much higher grade. Hopefully, her Biology teacher thought more soberly and less selfishly. The complete college experience goes beyond the classroom.

  7. Casey Holcom says:

    If the student had poor grades then maybe I would understand but this is not the case. She had a legitimate excuse and clearly wasn’t dragging behind since she was doing well. It sounds like the professor may not have liked her.

  8. Michael R. says:

    If the athletic department excuses Hannah’s absences and if Hannah completes her makeup assignments then there should be no way for the Professor to fail her. Does Dr. P’s syllabus overtly state that athletic events are unexcused? If not, and I have not read Dr. P’s syllabus, Hannah should not and most likely will not fail.

  9. Kasey S says:

    I feel this teacher is just one of the many that have the frame of mind that sports are not important in college, it is the learning that students has come to school to do and missing class is seen as disrespectful of the time and money for the education. I have had several teachers that have stated in syllabi that missing more than three days of class will automatically fail you, however I have had teachers that do not take roll because it is not important that you show up but that somehow the material makes its way into the brain of the student. I agree that some athletes ruin the experience for others as they do not have any motivation for studying but this is a very small majority of athletes.

    The teacher in this case should just accept that if the school has a policy that states it is ok for student athletes to miss class if they are participating in a game or tournament for the school, that there is nothing he can do. Sure he could fail the student, but the school officials may give him hell about it and give the student a passing grade based off performance when she was in class.

  10. tarac says:

    I know that many classes I have had have an attendance policy of missing no more than 20% of class and that any makeup work is under the discretion of the professor. Many of my classes were no more than six classes could be missed. I think that many professors know that if the student is given missed work to make up they will get it done, mainly because they knew the student would have do the work in order to keep eligibility for both playing and keeping their scholarships. As long as another student, say a single parent, has the same opportunities to make up work if missed if they have an excuse for the absence such as if they had to take the child to the doctor I see no problems. Many of the prior professors that I have ever had always understand if you just explain your absence. If this student does everything that is asked of her in class and has not met the number of missed classes to be failed, I don’t see a way that this professor can fail her. The professor stated that the student would fail due to one more absence, not because of her grades. Completely unfair and if she is failed, the student could take this to the board for review.

  11. callen m says:

    When I first moved to Athens after I got married in 2012 I was in the process of looking for a full-time job in my field of study, so in the meantime I got a part time job working as an academic mentor and tutor at the University of Georgia. This was a truly eye opening experience. Before working there I thought it was a joke that the athletic association was willing to pay people $12 an hour to simply work with one or two student athletes at a time for one hour a day to help them manage their academic schedules and make sure they were completing their assignments on time and were prepared for tests. After working there for only a few short weeks I understood exactly why the athletic association was willing to invest in the mentor program. The demands and pressures that are placed on student athletes are pretty intense. I worked with football and basketball players during the year and a half I worked there. Out of all the students I worked with only two of my students would have had the chance to attend the university without an athletic scholarship. The truth is that these students weren’t there for the academics they were there for athletics. Trying to convince them that the pros don’t always work out and they needed to take their academics serious was a struggle. I completely see why a professor would get frustrated when trying to teach a student athlete, but I would have to say, from my own personal experience, that having an understanding attitude and encouraging them academically instead of pressuring them or forcing them into situations that make them choose their sport or academics is not an effective way to reach them. The majority of my students would choose their sport every time. Many students would be willing to transfer out to a less challenging academic school if the choice led them to that decision.

  12. John F says:

    Having been a student-athlete for 5 years and currently a graduate assistant with the men`s golf team at VSU it was always nice to have teachers who not only understood that I would be missing class for a golf tournament, but would also support me and follow up on the results of the event. I understand that academics is extremely important, but we also come to college to play a sport, and for most of us that is what pays for our school. I have only heard of this happening a very few number of times, but when I do hear about this type of incident it makes me wonder what the professor`s reasoning is behind the decision. Not be rude, but missing s few lectures, a quiz, or a test, will not kill the student as long as they show a desire to make up the work and do so in a timely manner. It is a thin line to walk but student-athletes are put in the situation because their coach believes that they can handle the responsibility.

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