Beginning this summer, all incoming first-year student-athletes will be given early registration privileges for the fall 2008 semester. In addition, all first- and second-year student-athletes will be eligible for early registration for the spring 2009, fall 2009 and spring 2010 semesters, all according to a proposal prepared by the Faculty Athletic Committee.
Currently, 35 student-athletes are granted early registration based on need. The new policy would increase this number to 50 for the fall 2008 semester in addition to the other changes. Once the model is fully phased in, about 200 student-athletes will register early with the scholars in their respective classes. Dan Palazzolo, chair of the Faculty Athletic Committee, sent the proposal on March 20 for approval to Interim Provost Joe Kent. Palazzolo said he thought it was likely that the proposal would be approved soon.
Early registration for student-athletes is not a new idea, according to Mark Mendez, the vice president of student advocacy in the Richmond College Student Government Association. He said the issue has been brought up five or six times independently by the faculty senate.
Mendez and Westhampton College Government Association senator Louisa Brody worked closely with Brian Alas and Mandy Friend, the University of Richmond's Student-Athlete Advisory Committee representatives, to compile research and present their findings to the Faculty Athletic Committee.
Alas said he began by contacting SAAC representatives at 10 to 12 other schools to learn more about their registration policies concerning student-athletes. He looked at schools in the Atlantic 10 conference such as the University of Dayton and Saint Joseph's University, as well as other schools that are comparable to Richmond, including Vanderbilt University, Furman University, Wake Forest University and Rice University.
Alas found that Richmond was one of two schools in the A-10 with no policy in place.
An online survey was then created to learn more about the registration process for student-athletes at Richmond. Mendez said that 91 percent of the student-athletes contacted responded to the survey, about 295 in total.
The responses were ranging, and Mendez said they found that some sports and majors were affected more than others. Basketball, baseball, lacrosse and golf presented the worst time conflicts, he said, while the business school majors often had the most difficulty registering.
"The majority of the student-athletes were taking one to two classes that they didn't want, and they didn't need," Mendez said.
Two town hall-style meetings were held on the issue, one in Gray Court and the other in Dennis Hall. About 25 students attended each.
Once all the information and research was compiled, a proposal was put together and sent to Palazzolo. Alas and Friend were not allowed to present their findings in person to the committee.
The initial proposal Alas and Friend prepared called for all student-athletes at Richmond to get early registration. The policy that was agreed upon by the Faculty Athletic Committee and sent to Kent reflected the changes made by the committee, including the number of student-athletes that would be eligible for early registration.
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The letter to Kent said under rationale: "Our recommendation creates a way of giving student-athletes a priority without granting them a special privilege. We also recommend moving ahead on a trial basis and assessing the results to determine if, in fact, early registration creates a gross inequity between student athletes and other students."
According to the letter, the provost and the FAC will consult with the assistant director of athletics for academics to determine if any adjustments need to be made to the policy at the end of the spring 2010 semester.
The eligible student-athletes will register early with Bonner Scholars, Cigna Scholars, Ethyl Science Scholars, Oldham Scholars, University Scholars and Richmond Scholars.
Matt Whittaker, vice president of finance and next year's RCSGA president, commented on the speed at which the proposal was put together by the FAC.
"How quickly [the decision] was made was surprising, especially, I think, for the senates," he said. "We didn't anticipate it would happen so quickly."
Whittaker said he would have liked more student input on the issue, especially from those who are involved in a program like theater who may have similar scheduling constraints.
Palazzolo said there were a number of reasons why the proposal had come together so quickly. He said the issue had been discussed for many years, but new software that the registrar began using to track course enrollments has helped ease concerns about evaluating the positives and negatives of the early registration experiment. He added that the change to the unit system had also opened up new time slots that should help everyone take the classes they need.
He also stressed that he was willing to work closely with the senates to monitor the two-and-ahalf year experiment.
Alas was confident that the experiment would help student-athletes manage their schedules better without affecting how other students register for their classes.
"I think this is going to alleviate more problems than we think," he said. "The best part about it is I think it's going to have a minimal impact on the registration for other students."
Both Mendez and Alas said that some of personal testimonies from student-athletes at the town hall-style meetings really showed students how big of an issue registration had been. Alas said he had missed 13 classes in one course because of baseball conflicts.
"I don't think people realize that the studentsathletes want to go to class," Alas said. "It's a fulltime job, and being in class helps a whole lot. Our motto has been that this is going to improve the student in student-athlete"
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