Dec. 15, the Middle Atlantic Conference (MAC) released the names of those students who qualified for the Fall Academic Honor Roll. These student-athletes must have a 3.2 or higher cumulative grade point average, as well as sophomore standing or higher. Out of Elizabethtown College’s 85 fall athletes that met the sophomore standing requirement, 42 made the honor roll, which equals 49.4 percent.
Though Etown ranked fourth among other conference schools, like rival Messiah College, the percentage of students on the fall honor roll has been decreasing since 2009. In 2009, 41 students out of 77 made the honor roll (53.2 percent), and in 2010, exactly 50 percent of fall athletes, 47 out of 94, made the GPA requirement. While the small discrepancy between the 2010 and 2011 fall seasons is not a cause for alarm, it is hard to tell whether this downward trend is representative of the academic standards of the student-athlete population as a whole.
As a Division III school, Etown’s athletics are designed to minimize conflicts with academics as well as to provide opportunities for student-athletes to take advantage of extra-curricular activities. Also, the Athletic Department’s mission statement claims that the department focuses on “provid[ing] Elizabethtown College students with varsity sport programs that support and enhance the students’ educational experience.” With that being said, is the culture of Etown athletics truly one that supports student-athletes in the classroom and in other areas on campus?
According to Athletic Director Nancy Latimore, “Elizabethtown College is always well-represented on the MAC Academic Honor Roll, and I believe that we’ve had more student-athletes receive NCAA post-graduate scholarships than any other school in our conference.” Latimore also pointed out that the only Etown student to receive a Rhodes Scholarship was John Learman ’95, who was a member of the men’s cross country team.
However, several student-athletes included on the fall honor roll had higher expectations of their fellow teammates. “I was very surprised to see this percentage,” junior volleyball player Holly Bubb said. “I thought honor roll would be higher than that with our student-athletes.”
Senior field hockey player Kelly Clayton agreed, stating, “I think this number is good but not good enough. Etown is known for its academic excellence and takes pride in being a well-rounded school, excelling in athletics along with academics.”
Latimore stated that coaches take adequate measures to ensure the academic success of their team members. She verified that coaches check early warning lists to see if students are struggling in a particular area. However, some of the honor roll students are in disagreement as to who is responsible for the academic success of a team.
Sophomore volleyball player Carolyn Lukiewski said, “I think coaches should emphasize that academics come first, but it is entirely the student’s responsibility to make sure they get their work done and are doing well in their classes.” Sophomore swimmer and cross country member Abby Mitchell agreed, saying that academic achievement “is primarily the student’s responsibility.”
However, senior cross country runner Russell Speiden placed a heavier burden on the coaches. “Coaches need to be aware of their athletes’ academic status and take actions to help them succeed in academics,” he said. “They need to emphasize that academics come first and should be lenient with their athletes’ academic schedules.”
It is important to note that the decreasing number of fall athletes on the honor roll may not accurately reflect a trend within the other seasons. In fact, the number of winter season athletes on the honor roll for last year’s season increased by nine, and an additional 20 athletes made the spring honor roll in 2011 as compared to the 2010 season. However, without knowing the percentages, it is uncertain as to whether these increases are accurate depictions of academic achievement.
Still, as senior cross country member Kathryn Howser stated, “Until we are at 100 percent, we should always be striving to do better. We are athletes; we love to be competitive.”