Home Campus American Association of University Professors denounces athlete-only tutoring center

American Association of University Professors denounces athlete-only tutoring center

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The Perry and Sandy Sook Academic Center. Rendering via Ohio University.

It’s not even constructed, but the multi-million dollar Sook Center has stirred controversy on campus since its inception. Now, the Ohio University Chapter of the American Association of University Professors is against it.

The Ohio University Chapter of the American Association of University Professors expressed concerns in a press release last Tuesday about the $6.49 million Sook Academic Center breaking ground on South Green.

Under the control of Ohio U’s athletic department, the center plans to provide advising and support to 425 student-athletes in a 10,000 square foot facility on the north side of Peden Stadium.

In a formal request to President Nellis and Interim Provost Descutner, the OU-AAUP asked that the athletic department not control the Sook center and instead it be supervised by an academic office.

“The Ohio University Chapter of the American Association of University Professors believes that the Sook Center should be a facility for all students, athletes and non-athletes alike, and that the financing and supervision of the center’s advising services should come under the auspices of an academic office and not under the purview of the Athletic Department,” OU-AAUP executive members said in the statement.

Members believe leaving the center in the athletic department’s control will steer focus away from academic success and towards maintaining eligibility. Professors are also concerned with laxing academic standards for athletes.

“Athletic departments should have no financial or supervisory role, since they will likely privilege eligibility maintenance over academic exploration and success,” OU-AAUP said. “A separate problem is the over-enthusiastic athletic supporter–which could also be a faculty member–who is inclined to advocate for the relaxation of academic standards for student-athletes.”

The Sook Center could violate NCAA rules, OU-AAUP said.

The NCAA’s Principles of Academic Sound Standards, Bylaw 2.5 says, “The admission, academic standing and academic progress of student-athletes shall be consistent with the policies and standards adopted by the institution for the student body in general.”

Ohio University and the athletic department have never violated NCAA academic standards, but the university should not rely on previous good-standings, OU-AAUP said.

“Maintaining athletic eligibility as a primary goal must be distinguished from education,” executive members of OU-AAUP said. “The purpose of the university is to offer athletes the opportunity to explore majors and earn a meaningful education. The purpose is decidedly not to maintain athletic eligibility at minimal academic levels.”

The Coalition on Intercollegiate Athletics, the Knights Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, the Drake Group and The American Council on Education support OU-AAUP’s recommendations to make Sook Center inclusive to all students.

Former president of the Drake Group Dr. Gerald Gurney believes academic offices need to be involved in athletic academic support.

“In order to make good on the University’s promise of a meaningful education, colleges must provide their athletes with the freedom to participate in the undergraduate academic experience,” Gurney said.

“Any athletic program that insists on a model of academic, budgetary and supervisory control housed in athletics fails to ensure the wellbeing of the athlete, jeopardizes the academic reputation of the institution, and potentially devalues the diploma.”

Ohio U needs to prioritize athlete’s academic careers over eligibility to protect the institution’s integrity, OU-AAUP said.

“It is of vital importance that our athletes have access to the same educational opportunities enjoyed by all Ohio University students,” OU-AAUP executive members said. “If that means that an individual athlete must miss a game, multiple games, or even a season for academic remediation or pursuit of their program of study, then that is the best thing for that individual and for the university.

“The reforms we suggest will make athletic academic advising better and provide a system of academic primacy that protects us all. Let us embrace these changes and in so doing lead the nation in academic and athletic excellence.”

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