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Academic policy aims to aid struggling athletes

by Beacon Staff • April 16, 2008

When junior Jake Frank found out that he would have to miss out on part of the lacrosse season because he received an F as an interim grade, he was upset. Frank became one of the first student-athletes to be affected by the school's new Athletics Midterm Policy.

"It sucks," the new media major said. "It's good academically, but in terms of athletics it's bad."

The policy, developed by the Athletics Department in conjunction with the Writing and Academic Resource Center, the advising center and the academic affairs office, operates via a system of communication between the athletic and academic departments of the school.

At the beginning of each semester, letters are sent to the professors of student athletes requesting that their midterm grades be sent to the athletic office. If a student is found to have withdrawn or to have expressed intent to withdraw from a course, has two or more C-'s, an F in any class or unsatisfactory attendance, the student is immediately ineligible to participate in athletics.

In order to regain eligibility, the student must attend meetings with his or her head coach, WARC director Dr. Anthony Bashir, Athletic Director Kristin Parnell and the Emerson College Compliance Coordinator Roger Crosley. At the meeting, the student must develop an academic plan with the WARC.

If the student agrees to comply with all the stipulations of the plan, he or she will regain eligibility and remain eligible unless the WARC informs the athletics department that the student has not met the conditions of the plan. At that point, he or she will again be withdrawn from competition until the problem is resolved.

Crosley explained that the new policy is an expansion of a previous policy already on the books.

"In the past what we did was send an e-mail to a student athlete that we didn't get a positive report on, send a copy to their coach and have them meet with their professor," Crosley said. "We still do that, but we've added to the stipulations."

Crosley said that the policy is not meant to be punitive, but is instead meant to identify and assist students who may be having trouble juggling academics and athletics. In some cases, he said, the policy has brought students' attention to problems they were unaware they even had.

According to Crosley, the new policy is an attempt by AD Parnell to unite the school's athletics and academics departments.

"When Kristen Parnell took over as AD, one of the initiatives she wanted to incorporate was to draw athletics into the life of the college," he said. "The place we wanted to start was academics. We wanted to let the faculty know that we take academics very seriously."

So far, Crosley said response to the new policy has been positive and professors have been enthusiastic and helpful.

The policy also sees strong support from the school's coaches.

"Our athletes play for the love of the game," said Emerson volleyball Head Coach Craig LeTourneau. "But they come to Emerson to get an education, to graduate and to get a job, and the school helps them. It's almost as though they have another advisor: their coach."

So far, student athletes haven't been completely won over.

Frank was hurt by what he described as miscommunication between athletics and academics, in which his professor's failure to get in touch with the athletics office cost him practice and play time in a few games. Overall, though, he has found that the policy has worked to his benefit.

"I guess it could help. If there was no consequence I probably wouldn't have done the work," he said. "Maybe they should put the policy in place for all students."