Dirks addresses student-athletes at fireside chat

Aslesha Kumar/Staff

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At his first fireside chat of the semester, Chancellor Nicholas Dirks met with student-athletes Monday to discuss challenges they face on campus.

Dirks stressed integration with the entire student body by increasing interactions and understanding among student-athletes, nonathlete students and faculty while also saying he hoped to fight stereotypes surrounding student-athletes. At his fireside chats, Dirks speaks with students about campus experiences.

Dirks and H. Michael Williams, interim director of intercollegiate athletics, touched on the recommendations of task force report on academics and athletics. The report, released in September, addressed low graduation rates for some sport teams, increasing academic resources and integration of student-athletes on campus.

The attendees discussed the student-athlete experience and raised concerns over what some called the sometimes hostile and challenging environment on campus.

Many student-athletes shared their experiences with stereotyping. According to Randy Bermea, a junior on the track and field team, older members on the team discouraged him from wearing Cal athletic gear to his classes because faculty and students might treat him differently.

Stereotypes of student-athletes stem from misinformation on the part of students as well as student-athletes, according to Savanna Smith, a senior on the water polo team.

“We are perceived to be entitled,” said Catherine Breed, a senior on the swim team. “Students don’t see how much work we do. But there are also aspects of campus life that we don’t know about.”

Student-athletes also expressed desire to increase interactions with other students. ASUC President Pavan Upadhyayula recommended bringing students and student-athletes together to improve relationships by focusing on commonalities in campus experiences.

Differing viewpoints on housing options were expressed; some student-athletes said they would like to room with a nonathlete, while others valued sharing space with a teammate on a similar schedule.

“It was nice to hear different perspectives of different athletes,” said Jo Ee Kok, a senior on the golf team. “The housing issue is interesting — maybe the university can work with coaches to decide housing situations.”

Some student-athletes shared their experience of having to drop a class because of schedule conflicts or because a professor would not allow a student-athlete to miss an exam.

Celeste Martore, a junior on the soccer team, said she’s seen improved support from professors and GSIs since the release of the task force report. Martore, who also works on the student advisory council on undergraduate education, said she hopes to see the integration of student orientations and the freshman residence halls.

According to Paul Savage, the director of student-athlete affairs, next year, student-athletes will not be separated from other students during orientation.

“The meeting seemed very productive,” said Jesse Kay, a junior on the baseball team. “Opinions and views of student-athletes were brought to people who can bridge the gap and make things happen.”

Those in attendance felt that the fireside chat was productive in opening appropriate discussion on the issues faced daily by student-athletes.

“We are all going to live in particular parts of the university, but we want to mix it up,” Dirks said.

Contact Sierra Stalcup at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @SierraStalcup.