All Fairfield University students can agree that one of the most stressful times of the year is course registration. Twice a year, students scramble last minute to reach their academic advisors, obtain pin numbers, set early alarms and panic when the registration site inevitably crashes or shuts down just as classes open. It is not uncommon, especially for underclassmen, to get through these obstacles only to find that many of their desired courses are already at capacity. Such stress and anguish is commonplace for the typical student, and all of this aggravation would seemingly go away if they could register even just an hour earlier than the general population, like the athletes. Early registration is a luxury afforded to all student-athletes here at Fairfield, but is it needed?
Paul Schlickmann, director of athletics, offered input as to why he believes it is an imperative step to be taken by the Department of Athletics.
“Fairfield University student-athletes receive priority scheduling to help mitigate frequent conflicts that occur when coordinating athletic contests and training schedules commensurate with being an NCAA Division I student-athlete,” said the athletic director. Conflicts occur because, “routine travel constraints, facility availability and NCAA requirements all impact student-athlete schedules each semester.”
There is no doubt that these student-athletes must jump through hoops each semester to ensure that they are fulfilling both academic and athletic expectations. Most Division I teams require their athletes to practice up to six days a week. The challenges that would accompany leaving them at the mercy of luck come registration day would pose even greater issues, particularly with the rigorous core classes that are expected to be completed by all students at this Jesuit University. Many core courses fill up rather quickly by students who look to get their obligations over with, and athletes have an even smaller selection to choose from while considering which of these classes fall outside of their designated practice time.
“Priority scheduling allows our student-athletes to fulfill their core and major-specific academic commitments in an efficient and effective manner. Given the inherent challenges associated with being a Fairfield student-athlete, priority scheduling is a necessary component to position our student-athletes to succeed and thrive academically, while balancing the demands of practice, competitions, travel and community service initiatives,” said Schlickmann.
Captain of the Fairfield University women’s basketball team, and Student-Athlete Advisory Committee executive board member, Rachel Hakes ‘21 echoes these sentiments.
She stated, “As a student-athlete, I am expected to perform in the classroom and on the court. To be successful in both of these endeavors, I must be present for class and practice. Priority scheduling gives me the opportunity to handle my travel commitments, practice schedules and community service obligations, while also excelling as an active participant in my academic life.”
Even with advanced scheduling, athletes like Mia Melao ‘22 of the Fairfield University women’s cross country team struggle to juggle their commitments.
“It’s super hard to make our schedules work around practice, traveling for meets and lift times, even with priority scheduling,” Melao added.
It’s false to label the so-called ‘perks’ associated with athletics, like early registration, as an unfair advantage. It is a fundamental necessity in creating a harmonious relationship between school and athletic commitments. The general consensus among many students is that however frustrating this privilege may be, it is a crucial procedure to take when coordinating the athletic and academic schedules of students.
On Oct. 9, vice president of student affairs, Karen Donoghue, released a statement to all campus community members in which she announced the pause of all NCAA sports for the next 14 days. For weeks now, practice schedules have been inconsistent for Division I teams across the board, with random hiatuses due to COVID-19 precautions. This raises questions pertaining to early-registration for next year. Since the pandemic has shown no significant signs of slowing down anytime soon, will early registration really be necessary?
“I understand the importance of it, especially when athletes have to commit to practices, as well as their classes; however, in today’s circumstances with COVID-19 practice suspensions, their priority treatment seems moot,” explained Allison Krekoska ‘22.
What decisions will be made in the future is as uncertain as everything else at the moment, but as of right now, this practice serves a significant purpose and is here to stay to ensure the wellbeing of athletes in their pursuit of excellence both in the classroom and on the competition floor.