Gophers’ dilemma dismays U

by Jake Kapsner

Amid allegations that numerous former and current Gophers men’s basketball players committed academic fraud, many on the Minneapolis campus reacted with shock and sadness at the possibility of misconduct.
Four former basketball players confirmed statements made by Jan Gangelhoff, former office manager of the academic counseling unit, claiming she prepared exams and research papers for student athletes from 1993 to 1998, according to a copyrighted Saint Paul Pioneer Press report that ran Wednesday.
“If it’s true, it’s very disappointing. It’s unfair to students,” said Claudia Hasegawa, associate academic advisor in the College of Liberal Arts.
“I do feel really sorry for the (players) who did it on their own — who studied and earned their own grades,” said Susan Hunter Weir, senior advisor in CLA. She said they might be unfairly associated with corruption.
The allegations hit students of color hard because historically many such students have played basketball at the University, which is predominantly white, Hasegawa said.
Thus, many students of color could face an additional stigma, despite achieving academic success while performing as athletes, she said.
Numerous issues spring forth from the allegations, from the University’s responsibility to provide an education, to the rigors of coupling academics with the goal of becoming a professional athlete.
There’s also the issue of students coming to the University underprepared academically, unable to read and write at a college level and not gaining the skills because they don’t practice them through the continuation of their education, Hunter Weir said.
“There’s an ethical obligation to provide services to students, and this takes it way over the line,” she said.
Hunter Weir said she tutored students with academic challenges in the past, even stayed up nights worrying and hoping they’d pass their courses.
She said she sympathizes with the difficult situation of tutoring a student who dreams to play professional sports, because “you’re rooting for them in sports and in the classroom.”
And while most people come to a university to study, some wonder if pursuing the four-year academic plan is secondary to athletes who use school as a springboard to the next level.
“You have to recognize that it’s hard to be a student athlete,” said Mike Watry, a senior in structural engineering and a former math tutor.
The Pioneer Press report “raised the moral question of whether schools are willing to sell out for athletic success,” he said. “It’s no secret that athletic events bring in revenue for a university.”