Stanford Athletes Had Access to List of ‘Easy’ Classes

Amy Julia Harris and Ryan Mac, California Watch, March 9, 2011

A drama class in “Beginning Improvising” and another in “Social Dances of North America III” were among dozens of classes on a closely guarded quarterly list distributed only to Stanford athletes to help them choose courses.

Stanford officials said the list was designed to accommodate athletes’ demanding schedules and disputed that the list was made up of easy classes. Officials discontinued the list last week after student reporters working for California Watch began asking about it.

The list, which has existed at least since 2001, was widely regarded by athletes as an easy class list. More than a quarter of the courses on the list did not fulfill university general education requirements.

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The classes on the list were “always chock-full of athletes and very easy A’s,” added Kira Maker, a women’s soccer player who used the list her freshman year.

Titled “courses of interest,” the list was distributed by the Athletic Academic Resource Center. Advisers in other departments at the university said they were unaware such a list existed.

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But some faculty and students say the list may have offered an academic advantage for the athletes who requested it–especially since the general population was unaware it was even available. The Athletic Academic Resource Center didn’t advertise the list or post it on its website. But athletes have been known to ask for it.

Athletes said they heard about the list by word of mouth or simply picked up the document at the resource center.

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Before officials discontinued the list, Julie Lythcott-Haims, dean of freshmen and undergraduate advising, said with other scheduling resources available to all students, perhaps the list was “unnecessary.”

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Other professors were unconcerned that a class they taught made it onto the list. Some, in fact, said they believed student athletes should be treated differently than the typical student.

Stanford “accommodates athletes in the manner that they accommodate students with disabilities,” said Donald Barr, who teaches a course titled “Social Class, Race, Ethnicity, Health,” which was highlighted by resource center advisers.

Some faculty members said they didn’t believe the list harmed anyone–and may have helped fill their classrooms.

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