Faculty senate discusses missed class time for student-athletes

Faculty senate discusses missed class time for student-athletes

Gerrit Van Genderen

Student-athletes may be able to miss more class days due to athletic travel after a discussion at Appalachian State University’s Faculty Senate meeting Monday.

Member of the Athletics Council Academic Enhancement Committee and Assistant Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Neva Specht addressed the senate about the issue of student-athletes missing more class time in the future, due to the university’s shift to the Sun Belt Conference.

“Our subcommittee has been tasked this year to look at the changes in terms of travel that eight of our teams are going to be going through as they move from the [Southern Conference] to the Sun Belt,” Specht said.

The eight teams include men’s and women’s soccer, volleyball, football, baseball, softball and men’s and women’s basketball.

“What we want to do, as a committee, is to make sure as travel increases for these eight teams, that academic integrity is maintained and athletes can continue to be successful,” Specht said.

Appalachian’s current policy states student-athletes can miss no more than 10 percent of classes in a semester schedule.

“With those eight teams, those numbers may increase, and are likely to increase, especially for basketball, softball and baseball,” Specht said. “The other teams are working very hard to try and minimize any increased travel, but may be affected as well.”

Specht asked the senate to help ensure the faculty, the athletic department and the student-athletes work together to make the transition as easy as possible.

“This is going to really take all three groups to work together to make sure this does not disrupt what we do as a university,” Specht said. “Obviously missing class is a big deal, but being student-athletes is what they are here to do and we have to find a way to make this work.”

The Athletic Council has looked into other Sun Belt Conference universities and how they manage their student-athletes’ missed classroom time, finding that some universities allow up to 17 percent of a semester schedule to be missed.

At Appalachian, that would equate to seven or eight Monday/Wednesday/Friday classes missed and five to six Tuesday/Thursday classes missed.

Advice that Specht offered to the senate included having faculty maintain open communication with their student-athletes as well as the Athletic Department making sure that they are in class while on campus, she said.
Vice Chair of the Faculty Senate Paul Gates said this should have been discussed by the senate two years ago when the conference change was contemplated.

“Of course, it is done now and we have, somehow, got to make the best of it, but this is doing it the hard way,” Gates said.

Appalachian’s athletic programs will join the Sun Belt Conference effective July 1, after being a member of the Southern Conference since 1971.

The Sun Belt Conference includes universities located in Louisiana and Texas, as well as future affiliates located in Idaho and New Mexico.

Story: Gerrit Van Genderen, News Reporter