Senate Assembly has final meeting of year, discusses student-athletes
The University of Michigan’s Senate Assembly met Monday for the last time this academic year to hear a report from the Academic Performance Committee and discuss various final resolutions.
The meeting began with an overview of the APC by LSA Prof. Anne Curzan, the chairwoman of the APC, and LSA Prof. Ketra Armstrong, the faculty athletics representative to the National Collegiate Athletic Association and Big Ten conference. The committee handles academic-related policies for intercollegiate athletics at the University and deals mostly with student-athletes’ academic performance.
As of fall 2016, the University had 850 student-athletes spread out over 29 athletic teams. Armstrong said the students come from diverse academic backgrounds, but seem to be performing well across the board.
“Our students are in a number of majors,” Armstrong said. “Many of them are in LSA, Kinesiology, Engineering and (Sport) Management. They’re taking legitimate classes, and we’re looking at high-caliber students who are participating in high-class athletics. We think they’re doing a really great job of balancing it all.”
Curzan and Armstrong presented the Assembly with graphical evidence that shows student-athlete academic performance has been increasing over the last several years. They attribute this success to the many academic support services that have been instated recently, which include tutors, mentors and study tables — Armstrong said about 62 percent of student-athletes are utilizing these services — but there are also other factors at play.
“When you look at the numbers, it’s a combination of a lot of things,” Armstrong said. “One, I do think our coaches have the right mind of the balance between athletics and education. … We’re also bringing in good student-athletes who want to have life after sport. And in addition to that, it’s understanding the support that’s here. That, we think, is second to none.”
Armstrong, who has direct contact with the student-athletes, told the Assembly when students are struggling, it’s usually just because of a lack of time management skills. This is something Armstrong is working to help remedy.
“Most of the situations where I have talked to students, it really pertained not to something systematic, but just making sure they have the time management,” she said. “And the thing we have impressed upon them the most is making sure they have a good relationship with their faculty.”
The APC is also trying to work on integrating student-athletes into the greater student community. Curzan said this means having them use the University-wide resources in addition to more specific resources dedicated to student-athletes.
“We’re really trying to work with athletics to make sure the student-athletes are taking advantage of the resources all across campus and make sure there are all sorts of bridges built to make sure students aren’t isolated on South Campus,” Curzan said. “We want to make sure they’re using their own writing centers but also Sweetland (Center for Writing).”
The pair then talked to the Assembly about graduation rates among athletes. The rates are measured in two different ways — one that includes transfer students and one that doesn’t — but in general, they are comparable to the rates of the greater University.
“These are numbers we should feel really good about,” Curzan said. “Students are persisting through their education.”
After Armstrong and Curzan’s presentation, the Assembly moved into a discussion of their final two resolutions of the school year.
The first was a resolution from the Student Relations Advisory Committee about developing a centralized education program for instructors and faculty to raise awareness of mental health among students. It passed unanimously.
The second resolution, titled the “Immediate Past Chair Resolution,” dealt with adding a position to the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs. This would give an official title to the most recent Committee chair, who would stay on for an extra year after the end of his or her term to help preserve institutional memory and continuity within the body.
Though there was some opposition to the resolution, SACUA member Robert Ortega, next year’s chairman and a professor of social work, stepped in to say he felt the new position would be crucial to his success as chair.
“I have already been working non-stop on cases from three terms ago,” Ortega said. “My concern is that there’s going to be a lot of slippage. If we don’t have someone there to help me cut those loose ends, it’s almost impossible. … I can hit the ground running but I can’t run at 25 or 30 miles an hour.”
The resolution also passed.
After some last remarks from the Assembly’s committees, the meeting adjourned. Current SACUA Chair Bill Schultz handed his gavel to Ortega, saying he was happy to leave it and the Assembly in good hands.