Six months after a newspaper raised several questions about the Michigan Athletic Department’s student-athlete academic advising practices, a committee of five University faculty members has been created to evaluate whether student-athletes are given unfair treatment during the course selection and counseling process.
The Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs named statistics Prof. Ed Rothman chairman of the committee. Dr. Deborah Berman of the University Hospital, political science Prof. Edie Goldenberg, School of Music Prof. Fritz Kaenzig and College of Literature, Science and Arts director of academic services Robert Wallin make up the rest of the group.
The members of the committee were chosen in part because of their experience in various academic disciplines. The committee will deliver its findings in a formal report to SACUA this winter.
A March report published in the Ann Arbor News suggested that student athletes were being steered toward particular classes and professors to help them maintain academic eligibility.
The veracity of the report was widely questioned. The NCAA didn’t conduct an official investigation into the matter.
Last March, while addressing SAUCA on the matter, Vice Provost Philip Hanlon defended the University’s commitment to academics.
“There is no higher priority than the academic success of our students,” Hanlon said at the time.
Independent study courses taught by Psychology professor John Hagen were cited as example of classes athletes pass with marginal effort. University officials and Hagen denied all claims of preferential treatment for athletes or sub-standard academic standards.
While the formation of the committee seems to respond to that report, Classical Studies professor David Potter, the chair of SACUA, said that isn’t the case.
“It wasn’t formed in response to the Ann Arbor News,” Potter said, “It was formed by the Senate Assembly in response to a wide-ranging number of questions that has come up over time. If you look back at the process of the formation of the committee, you’ll see that it really had to do with things that were internal to SACUA and internal to the Senate Assembly.”
Potter said he didn’t have details on how the committee would conduct its investigation, and stressed the importance of their autonomy.
“It’s important for the committee to be doing everything it’s doing on its own without feeling that anyone was looking over its shoulder.”
Business School senior Stephanie Hoyer, vice president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Council, said she wasn’t surprised by the creation of the committee. She said the group could bring positive changes though its investigation.
“The University’s efforts, I do believe, whether it be from the Athletic Department or from the University of Michigan outside the athletics, is going to be to better the University and students,” Hoyer said. “I do believe that what they find will be in tune with one another and trying to better Michigan, the student-athletes and the overall community.”
In addition to concerns over easy course work and strongly guided counseling, the committee will likely address issues over priority treatment in admissions and enrollment.
According to the Ann Arbor News, physics Prof. Keith Riles and law professor Richard Friedman began the same examination earlier this year. Their efforts were postponed after a couple weeks of review, though Riles says he hopes the revived investigation is successful.
“I give my best to the committee in its investigation,” he said, “and look forward to reading its report at the end of the year.”