One of the goals of the UVA athletics department is to graduate 100 percent of the student athletes who complete eligibility at the University. And while the department is on track, with a 94 percent rate currently, some professors are concerned that the divide between athlete and student is widening, not shrinking.
At the January 30 UVA Faculty Senate meeting, anthropology Professor Fred Damon expressed such concern to Athletics Director Craig Littlepage. “Craig, I represent a department of anthropology that’s had considerable success over the last 30 years placing graduate students across the world and takes considerable pride in its contribution to undergraduate education, and that includes a lot of athletes,” said Damon. “Most of us are so frustrated with our student [athletes] that we’re beginning to think about how we schedule courses so athletes won’t be in them. And this is just the wrong way for opinions to be voiced. Some of us think we’re moving towards a crisis situation rather than a better situation.”
Damon, who has been at the University for 31 years, opts not to elaborate on his specific comments, expressing an interest in opening dialogue on the issue. “This is a broad societal problem and that is that there’s radical differentiation going on at virtually every level, so that everything is more intense,” from athletics to scholarship. “What that’s doing is creating gaps. The University is a very complicated melting pot in which we’re not all supposed to be the same, we’re supposed to figure out how we all get along in our differences. And that’s tough, especially when we’re oriented to teaching better students more complicated things and expecting more work, and some people are put in a slightly different mold, to understate the case. They’re designed to be stars to a whole different public. There’s not a simple solution to this.”
Part of what Damon would like to see is more dialogue between coaches and professors. There is currently no formal occasion for that to happen. Damon suggested to Littlepage that recruits visiting UVA have more interaction with professors.
“You’d probably be surprised the level to which our coaches use faculty for recruitment efforts,” replied Littlepage. “If there are ways that we can expand that and enhance that, we’ll look to do so.”
“All of the coaches are very serious about what they do, and so are the faculty,” says Damon. “We don’t talk, but we should.”
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