November 21, 2013 by gregrabidoux2013
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.
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.
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.”