List may point Stanford athletes to easy classes

March 9, 2011 8:13:54 PM PST
Counselors at one of the country's most elite universities may be encouraging students to take easier classes to maintain their grade point averages, according to ABC7 media partner, California Watch, a project of the Center for Investigative Journalism.

Ask around Stanford University and most students have heard about a list of classes available to student athletes.

"Students have been using the list to fit classes into their schedule that they thought would be essentially easy A's," California Watch reporter Ryan Mac said.

Mac and Amy Harris, both student reporters for California Watch, uncovered the list produced by Stanford University's Athletic Academic Resource Center since at least 2001.

"Some of the classes on the list didn't fulfill any general education requirements, there's things like social dance, which is a dance class," Mac said.

Stanford has long mandated equal scholastic footing among all undergraduates, including athletes. However, it makes some question whether the list was designed to keep up athletes GPA's.

One freshman athlete has seen the list. He said upper-classmen were passing it around when they were choosing classes.

"It's a list of lesser known classes; I hear the rumor is that they are easier classes, but that's not the vibe I got, I got that they are interesting, lesser known classes," he said.

Before ABC7 was able to interview any other athletes at Stanford the athletic department's head of public relations demanded that the reporter leave the area. Then the previously interviewed student asked ABC7 not to mention his name or his sport.

The university declined ABC7's request to appear on camera. Austin Lee is the director of the Athletic Academic Resource Center. He told California Watch, "An objective evaluation of the courses included on the list reveals several courses that most students would consider to be academically rigorous." He did not identify specific classes. Lee said the list was designed to help students get classes in before practice.

Mac and Harris say the list is not necessary. They say Stanford's online registration system already lets students filter classes.

"So, there's really no need for the list in general, so it sort of calls it into question if it's a document that's only available to athletes," Harris said.

The list of classes was pulled when Mac and Harris began their investigation. Students on campus are taking the news of the list in stride. They say it is still Stanford, and an easier class there is not a slam dunk, students still have to do the work.

"I don't think that that there are that many classes that are necessarily that easy, you know, they all have the work load," student Peter Mullen said.

Written and produced by Ken Miguel

Story in cooperation with ABC7 media partner California Watch (A Project of the Center for Investigative Reporting)

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