OPINION: Student athletes don’t receive special treatment in the classroom

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With fall sports well underway at Kansas State, a question has become apparent: are student athletes receiving special treatment in the classroom due to their player status?

Student athletes are often allowed to be absent from class without penalty due to their extracurricular activities. After diving into this subject, I don’t think there are systems within the classroom to give student athletes an advantage in attendance points.

“There’s leeway for any student participating in outside events for the university, not just student athletes,” said Alec Tefertiller, assistant professor of journalism and mass communications.

It is important to understand there are systems in place for any student participating in outside university activity, not just student athletes, to be excused from class for events, but certain steps must be followed.

“If a student athlete is going to miss class, a couple of things should happen,” Irma O’Dell, associate professor of leadership studies, said.

Student athletes must present a note from the athletics department to their professors with information regarding the situation and what days and assignments will be missed, O’Dell said. Student athletes must also be responsible for speaking to their professors and finding the time to make up assignments.

“And I make a big deal about that,” O’Dell said.

I could not find evidence of double standards for athletes throughout my investigation, whether it was special treatment from faculty or fellow students.

When asked if he has noticed any special treatment from coworkers regarding student athletes, Tefertiller said, “I’ve never seen it personally.”

It has become obvious to me that as far as absences and missed projects go, K-State instructors expect the same procedure to be followed by student athletes and non-athletes.

Although a student athlete may be featured on ESPN for a big play they made over the weekend, it is often overlooked within the classroom.

“I think most student athletes blend in — other students really don’t know someone is an athlete unless they’re paying close attention,” Tefertiller said. “When they’re not competing, they’re just students like everyone else.”

I think the perceived difference in treatment of athletes from faculty and fellow students comes from opinions and anecdotes rather than facts.

“I feel like they receive extra help and are allowed extra time to do work, although I understand they do not have all the free time [non-athletes] do,” Alexis Harp, graduate student in public health, said.

The issue of possible special treatment for student athletes within the classroom typically comes from other non-athlete students and their misunderstanding. What goes on behind the scenes, such as tutoring and set study time, is often overlooked by non-athletes.

Although student athletes might want to prioritize their performance on the field or in the stadium, ultimately education in the classroom has to come first.

“It doesn’t matter whether you are an athlete or not,” O’Dell said. “You’re here as a student … and education is most important.”

Brianne Smith is a senior in mass communications. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.