University Senate

Report: In NCAA-mandated interviews, Syracuse athletes voiced academic advising concerns, dissatisfaction with facilities

Sara Schleicher | Contributing Photographer

A report regarding student-athlete experiences at Syracuse University was presented to those in attendance at the first University Senate meeting of the semester on Wednesday afternoon.

At the first University Senate meeting of the semester, a faculty committee overseeing student-athlete experiences presented a report regarding the academic and athletic environments SU provides to its student-athletes.

Rick Burton, a professor of sport management and Syracuse University’s faculty representative to the NCAA, presented the Faculty Oversight Committee Annual Report Wednesday afternoon in Maxwell Auditorium. The report detailed athletic academic advising, athletes’ interactions with coaches and their feelings on facilities. It is unclear how many athletes expressed certain sentiments, because the report is based on anonymous testimonies.

The committee, which consists of faculty across several SU schools and colleges, conducted NCAA-mandated exit interviews in May with SU athletes completing their eligibility at the university in December 2016 and May 2017. Summaries from those interviews were included in the report discussed Wednesday.

“The athletics department’s mission is to create and foster a culture of academic and athletic excellence which prepares student-athletes as leaders in our global society,” SU Athletics said in a statement to The Daily Orange. “We are proud of the success of our student-athletes, which is highlighted in the University Senate report, and we continue to address the concerns brought up by our student-athletes.”

Findings from the interviews implied that some coaches made racially insensitive comments to players regarding the way they presented themselves. The report states: “Coaches should be reminded again of race sensitivity and that commentary about clothing, braided hair or other forms of self-identification may be construed as racist or racially insensitive.”

The report states that SU student-athletes “remain desirous” of mental health support on campus. The university will hire a full-time therapy counselor for athletes this semester to address that issue, according to the report.

The report also found “many” athletes feel their sports are full-time jobs and struggle to balance them with their schoolwork. Additionally, the committee is “not new” to hearing reports of athletes being “forced into majors they did not want,” according to the report.

The report includes a student-athlete’s suggestion that advisers in the Stevenson Educational Center in Manley Field House communicate “more often and more fully” with college advisers due to “conflicting advice.” The committee also suggested, in the report, an audit of athlete tutoring for upper-division courses after at least one athlete reported that their tutor wasn’t helpful.

Athletes also commented on SU’s athletic facilities during the exit interviews, saying they are “less than what they see/imagine exist” at other Atlantic Coast Conference schools, according to the report.

Athletes specifically pointed to Manley as also being “less than,” per the report. Volleyball and tennis athletes also pointed out in interviews that the two teams share a locker room, per the report.

“Many (athletes) feel we have too many teams working on not enough equipment,” the report states.

Additionally, one athlete suggested in an exit interview that athletes in a particular sport developed poor eating habits because coaches criticized their bodies, per the report. The report states those comments “may suggest the ongoing need for coaches to more closely consider their language.” It also suggests utilizing a nutritionist for athletes.

The Faculty Oversight Committee reports each year to the chancellor on concerns regarding student-athletes and its own work in supporting athletes. All Division I athletic universities have similar positions for faculty members. The committee also monitors the academic performance and environment of student-athletes, per the report.

Members of the committee will meet Monday with Mark Wheeler, SU’s associate athletics director for compliance, to “review the University’s compliance system and recent performance,” per the report.

Faculty Oversight Committee Annual Report – 2017 by Michael Burke on Scribd

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