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April 25, 2012 Volume 33, No. 29

Mizzou student-athletes face stricter regulations in Southeastern Conference


Council members asked to keep track of student-athlete classroom attendance

MU student-athletes will have new academic requirements now that university athletics is part of the Southeastern Conference. 

For starters, the conference imposes a mandatory class attendance policy on student-athletes, NCAA faculty representative Lori Franz told Faculty Council members April 19. Also, the number of class absences allowed due to sports is limited, though the Intercollegiate Athletics Committee still is debating how many will be excused, she said.

Students who miss too many classes due to sports may be suspended, Franz said, but they would retain the right to appeal.

Some faculty members questioned why student-athletes are not held to the same class attendance policies as nonstudent athletes.

“Are we not supposed to treat our athletes exactly the same as we treat our regular students?” asked Gordon Christiansen, a professor of internal medicine. “Is this kosher?”

Sarah Reesman, MU executive associate athletic director, acknowledged a gap in classroom attendance expectations between athletes and nonathletes, but said efforts are being made to close that gap. “These have come about because of a desire to make sure [student-athletes] aren’t coming here just to be athletes,” Reesman said. “We’re tying to make the experience as standard as possible.”

Reesman and Franz asked the professors to monitor student-athlete attendance. Prior to the semester, instructors will receive an email listing the student-athletes in their classes. 

Some council members, however, said they don’t take attendance. How will they know if student-athletes are attending?

Joe Scogin, MU associate athletic director for academic services, said the athletics department might assign people to eyeball athletes in class. But the process is still being worked out, he said. 

Mizzou needs to submit a student-athlete classroom attendance policy to the SEC by Aug. 1, Scogin said.

Another change from the Big 12 is that the SEC requires student-athletes to take English and Algebra. While MU already requires this of its student-athletes, the SEC insists the classes be taken in a classroom setting rather than online.

That sparked a discussion among council members.

For weeks, Faculty Council has been reviewing recommendations from the Online Academic Programs Task Force to have Mizzou online courses recognized as comparable to courses taught in classrooms. For members of the task force, the goal is for online courses to offer the same quality of education as courses taught in a traditional setting. 

Harry Tyrer, Faculty Council chair and a professor of electrical and computer engineering, held to this view when critiquing the SEC’s allegiance to the traditional model.

“The SEC will realize they got to accept online courses,” Tyrer said.

Despite the concerns, MU has an 80 percent graduation rate of its student-athletes, Franz said, which ranks fourth among SEC universities.