Friday, April 4, 2014

Responding to the worst column in Villanovan history

Jessica Wamala: Villanova athlete, Rhodes Scholar

In this week's issue of the Villanovan, Villanova's official student newspaper, junior Blaire Fenniman wrote a column about how student athletes get benefits that regular students don't, by virtue of their status as athletes. As evidence of such, she cited the University of North Carolina's now-infamous "paper courses", which were apparently the source of massive academic fraud that allowed functionally illiterate football and basketball players pass courses as well as her own anecdotal experiences with an unnamed student athlete who she was in a class with at Villanova.

Needless to say, this has been controversial amongst Villanova athletes past and present, and because of that, and the fact that it is awful and insulting even though I wasn't an athlete, I feel the need to respond in Fire Joe Morgan format.

The column (and my rebuttal after the jump)

We all know a degree from Villanova University looks great and very respectable on a resume.

You won't get an argument from me here.

We also know it wasn’t easy to get accepted into this highly accredited school. We spent hours in high school working on homework and projects, studying for tests, practicing for the next big game or the next big musical.


All of our hard work earned us a spot on this prestigious campus, giving us the opportunity to expand our academic, athletic, musical and theatrical careers.

Or it gives you a chance to engage in high risk behavior, gain 20 pounds, and go to basketball games.

So what happens when a student gets to college? Do they continue their hard work ethic?

Some do, some don’t.

I know some of you are probably thinking, “Of course. What else would they do?”

Drink, stay up late, sleep in, watch TV, play video games, anything but study. The stuff I did when I first got to college.

Well unfortunately, there are many situations where that just isn’t the case.

Oh, there are MANY situations? Please tell me about these situations?

Most commonly, this is seen with student-athletes.

Do you have some sort of empirical evidence to back up this assertion?

This is not to say that student-athletes are not hard workers, because they are.

Ah, but I thought that they were more likely than their fellow students to be slackers?

I recently read an article that a UNC student-athlete was given an A- on a “final paper” that he wrote about Rosa Parks, yet that “final paper” was all of a paragraph long.

What about the student who planned out and wrote a detailed five page essay?
What grade did they earn?

I doubt there were many of them in these fake courses.

Student-athletes like this one were enrolled in what were called “paper classes” at UNC.

They were never required to attend class sessions and the only work they had to pass in was one final paper.

So you’re telling me that student-athlete only had to write one paper, and they couldn’t even write more than a paragraph? recently reported that in January the University of North Carolina publicly apologized for these “paper classes” that were keeping student-athletes academically eligible.

To put it simply, these classes were phony and straight up scams.

The UNC academic fraud case is extremely problematic, and should in no way be used to represent the experience of the average collegiate athlete. UNC should not have been able to get away with something that egregious for that long, and there should be serious consequences so that something like that doesn't happen in the future.

In order for student-athletes to remain active in their specific sport, they must remain academically eligible.

It has been incredible to see how easy it has been for many of them to maintain good academic standing.

ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?!  The average athlete at Villanova gets worse grades than his or her non-athlete counterparts. THEY HAVE IT EASY, THOUGH!

For example, signing a friend in on an attendance sheet, blatantly cheating on an exam, sucking up to a professor by using their on-campus “celebrity” status, etc.

Where did you see an athlete using their “celebrity” status to suck up to a professor, or someone signing in one of their friends to a class, who happened to be an athlete? I was the furthest thing from an athlete when I was at Villanova, and I had friends sign me in on attendance sheets on multiple occasions. If anything, an athlete has less incentive to have a friend sign them in on an attendance sheet, because they have these things called coaches who occasionally check and see if they're going to class.

The worst part of it all is that without student-athletes, most colleges wouldn’t draw in the funds they need to maintain a thriving campus environment.

The vast majority of division one schools LOSE money on athletics. If you want to write a column about the problems with intercollegiate athletics, you should probably write one about how schools are spending too much money on certain sports at the expense of the average student, including the vast majority of athletes, most of whom receive no scholarship money.

However, do they deserve celebrity treatment?
In my opinion, no.

You’re right. They don’t deserve celebrity treatment, and they don’t get it either. Sheila Reid and Brian Westbrook, arguably Villanova’s greatest male and female athlete of the last 20 years walked campus with far less recognition than they deserved, because the vast majority of Villanova students and professors are totally ignorant about sports other than basketball, and there is a large faction of professors that simply HATE sports for various reasons.

I’m sure it sounds like I’m trashing student-athletes right now, but I promise I’m not.

Your initial intent may not have been to trash student-athletes, but making uninformed claims about them is just as bad, and maybe worse.

In fact, I have many friends here who are student-athletes and I know they work hard for their grades. However, I have also seen multiple times where some student-athletes act as if they don’t have to try in class because they know that they will still succeed in the class, whether that grade was earned or not.

This is the exact same thing as the racist guy who says “I’m not racist, I have many black friends.”
I’m sure that you have seen multiple non-athletes who have the exact same attitude. In fact, I would guess that they outnumber the athletes.

There are a couple student-athletes in one of my more challenging classes.

It’s nice to see that Villanova’s athletes are trying to challenge themselves.

There is one who I always see taking detailed notes and asking questions, and the other is usually texting, chatting to a neighbor or falling asleep.

So basically what you’re saying is that you’re painting with such broad strokes based on your experiences with TWO athletes?
Is the person who goofs off in class the only person in any of your classes that does that? There were three or four of those people in just about every class I ever had in school.

I recently had an exam in this class but I felt prepared since I attended every class session, took detailed notes and did all the assigned readings.

Good for you. It's good that Villanova has dedicated students who care about their academic progress. Now would you like a cookie or a plaque?

The student-athlete who tends to fall asleep in class usually sits far away from me, but on exam day he decided he would move right next to me.

When he sat down he turned to me and said, “So you’re going to help me pass this test, right?” I kindly said good luck and turned away. I’ve heard a few student-athletes say that they simply don’t care about a class because they know they won’t get in trouble and that they will get passing grades no matter the amount of work they put into the class.

I’m sure that athletes are the ONLY students who ever try to cut corners to get ahead in school. Nevermind the non-athlete I knew who was thrown out of school because his mom was writing all of his papers. Not everyone cheats that egregiously, but the thing you described is extremely widespread, and has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that he was an athlete.

Now I assume you reported this student for their violation of the school's academic integrity policy? If you didn't, I'm not quite as apt to believe you in a public forum such as this.

I don’t know about the rest of the Villanova community, but that really grinds my gears.

You know what really grinds my gears? The lack of priest and rabbi jokes lately.

What about the rest of us who put in endless hours working hard for the grades we earn in class?
I understand student-athletes don’t have as much time as the rest of us to work on academics because they have practices and games and what not, but why do they get the “privilege” of having their grades delivered to them on a silver platter?
I don’t exactly have a solution to offer to this problem, but I know that I am not the only one who feels that this “celebrity” student-athlete stigma is more than annoying and in all honesty, unfair.

I’m glad you work hard for your grades. Athletes work hard for their grades too, and the fact that they have less time than you to work is reflected in the fact that their grades are worse on average.

It’s unsettling to know that no matter how hard you worked for a grade, that someone else is quite possibly earning a better one than you simply because they are part of the reason this school is getting donations upon donations.

I’m sure people are donating a ton of money to Villanova because of swimming, tennis, and water polo.

There is a reason why they’re called student-athletes and not athlete-students, so it’s about time that schools everywhere, not just ’Nova, start to practice what they preach.

Do you think Villanova should do more to combat grade inflation, too? Judging by the lack of research done for this column, I bet your GPA looks a little (or a lot) better than it should on a normally distributed curve.

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