Recent efforts to foster greater communication between the University's athletic and academic communities are off to a promising start, according to administrators and faculty, and will intensify in the coming months.
This optimism stems from the 1994 appointment of Prof. Joseph Quinn (Economics) as the University's first faculty athletic representative, and the concurrent establishment of the Athletic Advisory Board, composed of nine administrators and faculty who began meeting in early 1995. The board represents faculty interests to the athletic director, advises the AD on policy issues brought to its attention and communicates Athletic Association goals and objectives to the University community.
The Athletic Advisory Board membership includes, from left: Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Associate Dean Patricia DeLeeuw, Assoc. Prof. Michael McFarland, SJ (CSOM), Vanderslice Professor of Chemistry T. Ross Kelly, ex-officio Chairman Prof. Joseph Quinn (Economics), Assoc. Prof. Michael Malec (Sociology), Assoc. Prof. Paul Spagnoli (History) and Associate Dean for Enrollment Management and University Registrar Louise Lonabocker. Members not pictured are Dean for Student Development Robert Sherwood, Assoc. Prof. Jane Ashley (SON) and Assoc. Prof. Hassell McClellan (CSOM). (Photo by Mark Morelli)
Earlier this month, Quinn, the board's ex-officio chairman, and AAB members reflected on the board's first year of work, which they described as an exploratory one that offered an opportunity to become acquainted with administrators, staff and other personnel in the Athletic Association. Members also devised a proposal formalizing policies on missed classes for student-athletes and looked ahead to other initiatives that will strengthen athletics-academics ties.
"There were two things I learned," Quinn said. "One, college athletics is a big, complicated enterprise, one of the most tightly regulated in America. Two, the people who work in athletics at Boston College are tremendously dedicated, whether they are top administrators like [Athletic Director] Chet Gladchuk Jr. or [Learning Resources for Student Athletes Director] Kevin Lyons, secretaries, coaches - or the approximately 800 athletes themselves.
"We've been impressed with the quality of people we've met," he added. "They truly want faculty perspectives on student athletes and information on the job they are doing in shaping these men and women for the future."
"The more we understand each other, the more we can help each other," said AAB member Assoc. Prof. Michael Malec (Sociology). "What's been encouraging is to see the support that the Athletic Association gives to the notion that academics come first."
This commitment to academic achievement is reflected in the graduation rates of the University's varsity athletes - annually ranked among the nation's best - Quinn and AAB members note, refuting the idea that athletics and academics are incompatible, even adversarial pursuits. But in a major university setting, they point out, establishing a working rapport between academic and athletic professionals can be difficult. The AAB's proposal on class absences represents the desire to bridge such gaps, Quinn said.
Under the proposal, which Quinn said may be given a "trial run" this fall, comprehensive information would be provided at the beginning of the semester to faculty as to when athletes are most likely to be absent from class. These absences apply solely to students in the 33 University athletic programs, and cover only athletic contests or travel to and from contests, he said, and not practices, team meetings or training sessions.
"Faculty and student athletes can discuss at the outset any potential conflicts in fulfilling course obligations," Quinn said. "It is an attempt to formalize what usually happens informally. We simply want to clarify the responsibilities of the athletic and academic administration, faculty, the AAB and the student athletes."
The board will hold an open discussion for faculty on the proposal this spring at a date to be announced later, Quinn said. It will also be a chance for faculty to offer their views on other aspects of the athletic-academic relationship.
"There is wide agreement that this policy is much needed," said Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Associate Dean Patricia DeLeeuw, another AAB member. "Our body represents the academic side of the University and we need to utilize this perspective as we continue developing our relationship with the Athletic Association."
A more long-term project for the board involves the National Collegiate Athletic Association's recently enacted certification process of its members' athletic programs. Every five years, a peer review group will assess a program's performance in four areas: governance, academic integrity, fiscal integrity and commitment to equity. The board, therefore, "will play a big role" in helping the University prepare for the evaluation, Quinn said, which will begin during the 1997-98 academic year.
Five of the panel's nine members are full-time faculty elected by their colleagues, three from the College of Arts and Sciences and two from the professional schools. Two are appointed by the University president and two are named jointly by the athletic director and faculty athletic representative.
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