February 13, 2002

The Cornell Way

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Professional sports are as American as apple pie. Be it the court, the playing field, or the track, wherever professional athletes perform, we stop what we are doing and watch. We cheer, we envy, and sometimes we even worship our favorite players and teams. But what happens when they step off the field, climb out of the pool, and walk victoriously from the wrestling mat? Should our world-renowned athletes be treated any differently than our world-renowned musicians or authors? We know that in the world of professional athletics, they are. They live in a world full of perks that the rest of us can only imagine. Few of us have problems with this notion because of the talent they posses and the time they dedicate to their sport. As a country, we treat athletes differently than we do the rest of the population. As a university do we do the same? Do our athletes receive any advantages over the rest of the university’s population? In this two-article mini series, the Sun explores academic services available to campus athletes and then compares Cornell’s offerings to several peer institutions.

If you are an athlete and you have a problem, Christine Wlosinski is the woman to see. As the director of the Cornell Office of Athletic Student Services, Wlosinski’s office is home to a number of invaluable resources that student athletes take advantage of on a regular basis. Wlosinski may always be there for an athlete to talk to or discuss a problem with, but she sees herself as nothing more than the middle-woman between the athletic population and the services offered to all Cornell students.

“I am a liaison between the athletic community and the services that Cornell offers to anyone on campus. I help students-athletes find the help that is available to all students in order to balance their academic and athletic careers,” Wlosinski said in an interview. “I often find myself sending students to campus-wide organizations such as EARS, CAPS, or even directly to Gannett Health Center. Cornell was the first Ivy League University to establish this office. A lot of Ivy Leagues have a similar offering, but at many of the schools, that person is responsible for something else, such as compliance. This is my sole responsibility. I work with athletes to catch problems before they become too big, just as any counselor on campus would do.”

Wlosinski is also in charge of a free tutoring service for all athletes in which they are able to find a tutor at the expense of the university for one-on-one help according to the athletic student services brochure. While most large departments within the university’s seven colleges offer free tutoring services and walk-in hours for help with problem sets, many athletes are not able to attend due to constraints with practice schedules. If you are a musician who practices during those same hours or have other commitments during these time slots you are not entitled to the special tutoring arrangements. However, if you are an athlete, simply sign up for a free tutor to meet at a time that better suits your schedule. The athletic department currently employs 70 tutors for its athletes. The bill is attached to the athletic department.

According to the Cornell’s Athletic Director, Andy Noel, struggling through classes does not seem to be a problem for Cornell athletes. Recent data collected shows that the average grade-point-average of a Cornell student-athlete is a 3.06, which is almost identical to that of the campus wide G.P.A. According to Noel, student-athletes are not using tutors in a last-ditch effort to pass a class, but rather to improve their grade when they are not willing to settle for a B or a C.

“The proof is in the numbers. Our athletes are serious students who strive for a good performance both on and off the playing field. Many of our athletes use our tutoring service to better their grade from a B- to a B rather than just to pass the class. I think it is a very valuable opportunity for our athletes that has been widely used in the past.”

Another widely used service offered to athletes include the opportunity to borrow a laptop from the school for a road trip or for an exam on campus. By signing up a day or two before a road trip, student-athletes can take a university laptop with them on the road to finish their paper due upon their return. If you are traveling with a non-athletic university club, or even with a club sport such as Rugby or skiing and have that same paper due upon your return to campus, you might head over to Olin or Uris Library to borrow a laptop for the weekend excursion. However, if you attempt to actually take the laptop out of the library, you’ll be chased out the door by a librarian. Laptops are not available for the non-athlete to take on a weekend trip.

Athletes are also afforded the exclusive use of the Class of ’44 Study Lounge, which is equipped with three computers offering free printing services. The facility is located in Bartels Hall, proximate to most practice sites.

For a nominal fee, varsity athletes have the option of purchasing a parking permit which allows them to park in K lot any time after 2:30 p.m. and overnight when the team has an away game.

Free laundry service is provided for athletes allowing them to have their practice attire and uniforms washed. Athletes are provided a mesh bag in which they place the items they would like to be washed.

All things considered two truths remain. First, varsity sports at Cornell receive services that club sports and other university groups do not. Second, Cornell values all of its athletic programs, from its 36 intercollegiate sports to its extensive network of intramural programs to its 175 physical education classes available each semester.

Noel explained the philosophy stating, “We find that athletics provide our students with a fuller experience here at Cornell. We see athletics as another piece of the Cornell puzzle.”

Archived article by Amy Sharenko