Registering for classes is always a nerve-wracking process. But starting next semester, some University students will have the option to bypass scheduling anxieties and register for classes early. This is great — if you’re a student-athlete, the only group benefiting from this new policy. And while many do face serious time constraints, the University’s blanket policy granting all athletes early registration gives the appearance of prioritizing athletics over academics. To establish a fairer system, the University should accommodate students with other special time constraints as well.
A resolution supporting the new policy giving special privileges to University athletes was passed in an overwhelming 23 to 3 vote in the Michigan Student Assembly, followed by the unanimous passage of a similar resolution in the faculty’s governing body, the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs. This change and the resolutions in support of it stem from the common problem of University student-athletes being unable to graduate on time because they cannot find classes that fit in with their rigorous athletic schedule. Allowing them to select their classes earlier helps alleviate this problem, and ensures that they are in classes that meet the academic standards set forth by the NCAA.
Given this, the needs of student-athletes certainly cannot be dismissed. But despite this rationalization, it is completely unfair to award this new privilege only to athletes — and to all of them without scrutiny, at that.
Early registration should be extended to other students, particularly those who are also contributing to the University and have difficulty accommodating their own schedules. Take the time commitments required of the ROTC or those involved in important but time-consuming research through programs like the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program. The University could implement a system through which members of such programs and Michigan sports teams could appeal to their academic advisers for registration priority, making their case based on pre-approved criteria, rather than using an ill-considered, blanket policy like this one. And if it can’t make such a system work for everyone, then no one should benefit — student-athletes included.
From a broader perspective, this policy further strengthens perceptions about the University’s emphasis on athletics over academics. Administration officials have noted that this policy is necessary and not without precedent — similar policies are in place at schools like Ohio State University, Northwestern University and the University of Notre Dame. But considering that this is a school, not an athletic program, the University of Michigan cannot and should not be so caught up in competing that it forgets that, even if other universities do.
A policy that limits a special privilege to a few students when some of their peers are just as deserving — if not more so — constitutes a flawed approach to academics at the University. While sports are very much a part of our University culture, it is important that the University recognize and accommodate students who sacrifice a lot to make greater contributions to the community — on and off the playing field.