Faculty Senate urged to focus on student athletes


Thursday’s meeting of the Faculty Senate featured a report by Stanford’s delegate to the Coalition on Intercollegiate Athletics (COIA), philosophy professor Tom Wasow, on the activities of the eight-year-old organization.

The purpose of the “grassroots” group of representatives from Division 1A schools is to “provide a faculty voice on issues related to athletics,” said Wasow, who was appointed by Provost John Etchemendy Ph.D. ’82 to be Stanford’s delegate when the University joined during the 2003-04 academic year.

During his presentation, Wasow said Etchemendy was initially skeptical of Stanford’s need to join COIA, as student athletes face relatively few academic challenges at Stanford  compared to those at other colleges and universities. But Wasow’s intent was for Stanford to be a “role model” in the coalition.

“Stanford has great athletics teams without sacrificing academic values,” Wasow told the Senate on Thursday. “There are no special admits, no special dorms for athletes, no canceling of classes for football games.”

(Philosophy professor Ken Taylor interjected: “We can’t even cancel a Faculty Senate meeting for a Giants game.”)

While Wasow claimed athletes do not receive special consideration in admission, the Faculty Senate acknowledged at its last meeting that the admission office may, under its current policies, give special consideration to “those with highly developed specific talents.”

Athletics Director Bob Bowlsby, who also was in attendance Thursday, chimed in to say the breakdown of academic majors among athletes is no different from that among the undergraduate population.

But both Wasow and Bowlsby acknowledged that student athletes at Stanford face academic challenges.

Bowlsby said science courses with afternoon laboratory sections frequently conflict with practices and training. He also said athletes have constant access to four academic advisers from the Office of the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education.

For Wasow, Stanford faculty does not show enough interest in ensuring that Stanford remains the model for athletic programs in the country. “There is still very little faculty oversight of athletics,” he said. “I encourage the Senate to take more interest in athletics and to remain the model that we are.”

Bowlsby took a question from electrical engineering professor Olav Solgaard about how often athletes are tested for drugs and by whom. Bowlsby said Stanford “does not do any institutional-based drug testing, but the NCAA runs a year-round drug testing program. They test for both performance-enhancing drugs and so-called recreational drugs.”

The meeting adjourned early for an off-the-record executive session on University accreditation.

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Devin Banerjee was president and editor in chief of Volume 236 of The Stanford Daily, serving from June 2009 to January 2010. He joined The Daily's staff in September 2007. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @devinbanerjee.