Task Force on Academics and Athletics report details recommendations to address student-athlete challenges

Sam Engel /Staff

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A task force that convened to address concerns surrounding the academic achievement of UC Berkeley’s student-athletes unveiled a report Friday morning that lists more than 50 recommendations intended to maximize academic performance of student-athletes while also addressing the quality of their campus experience.

Chancellor Nicholas Dirks convened the Task Force on Academics and Athletics after the release of NCAA data that reported low national graduation rates for UC Berkeley’s football and men’s basketball programs.

The task force — composed of students, faculty, alumni and staff — met about 10 times between January and August to discuss topics such as campus culture and inclusion, admissions and recruitment, advising resources and the student-athlete experience.

“Rather than a punitive approach to a short term situation … everyone from the Chancellor on down wanted this Task Force to be an engagement with how better to ensure that our student-athletes have a meaningful academic experience,” said Margaret Conkey, task force chair and professor emerita of anthropology, in the report’s prologue.

Read the full report here.

Among the concerns listed were those of time constraints, the scheduling of competitions — often midweek — interfering with academics and campus climate issues.

Some recommendations include a mentorship program and a career development internship program, as well as increased campus attention to class scheduling, especially in the case in which “key” or “gateway” courses — for example, mandatory introductory classes — are only offered in one semester.

“Although many student-athletes list factors such as time constraints and how they are to be managed through advising, for example, as key impediments to having a meaningful educational experience, it is important to stress that the Berkeley faculty themselves need to engender a more inclusive engagement with undergraduate students, ranging across many different groups, including, but not limited to student-athletes,” the report reads.

Additionally, the report recommends the formation of a comprehensive recruitment and admissions program, along with a full-time recruitment coordinator, to provide a “clearer message” to potential student-athletes of the athletic and academic expectations of the campus, coupled with increased outreach to high school and transfer students.

A number of the report’s recommendations focused on the transition of student-athletes from high school to college, whether on an academic level or a campus inclusion scale. The task force recommended the expansion of programs like the Summer Bridge, a six-week academic program that facilitates the transition of students from high school to college, to help transition student-athletes, as well as the inclusion of student-athletes in regular student orientation programs.

The task force strongly recommended, as well, the addition of a campus ombudsperson with “specific understanding of the situations of student-athletes” to act as a resource for these individuals.

The task force also analyzed existing admission and recruitment policies, offering recommendations to the campus Academic Senate Committee on Admissions, Enrollment and Preparatory Education, which sets admission policies for all UC Berkeley students.

But the report urges the campus to support students through services and other institutional means.

“Numbers may provide one lens through which we can view prospective students but they will not provide the entire context of the student’s situation, environment, or experience prior to Berkeley or once on campus,” the report reads. “If we want to admit and provide opportunities for our student athletes—and for all students — to succeed, campus climate and support services must reflect the array of experiences all of our students face prior to and after coming to Berkeley.”

A list of drafted UC Berkeley Athletic Admissions Policy crafted by the senate reaffirms the holistic approach while stating that admission shall be granted to student-athletes whose academic level “is deemed sufficient to warrant strong confidence in their ability to graduate from Berkeley.”

Raising the bar of academic expectations when it comes to admissions also entails altering the expectations of coaches, the report states. The task force calls for coaches to be more involved with the “student side.”

In general, the task force calls for increased communication among separate campus units such as campus advisors, the Athletic Study Center and the Undergraduate Student Learning Initiative.

“All along in our inquiry, the Task Force has taken a strong stand that once we admit student-athletes to UC Berkeley, we are then responsible for making sure the resources exist for them to succeed and that we provide a meaningful educational experience,” the report reads.

A press conference to discuss the task force’s report and its findings will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at Haas Pavilion Club Room.

Sophie Ho is the executive news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @sophanho.