Stanford halts class list for athletes

Updated: March 9, 2011, 8:06 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Stanford has discontinued the practice of distributing a list of "courses of interest" only to student-athletes, according to a report by the "California Watch" investigative reporting project.

The course list, which was not advertised to the general student population, was widely regarded by Stanford student-athletes as an offering of easier classes. It was discontinued last week after reporters inquired about it, according to the report.

Soccer player Kira Maker, who made use of the list, said classes on the list were "always chock-full of athletes and very easy A's," according to the report.

"I never used it before this year," crew team member Ryan Sudeck said, according to the report. "I was trying to get my requirements done. But this quarter it was like, 'Oh, I need an easy class to boost my GPA.' "

Stanford officials said the list, distributed by its Athletic Academic Resource Center, was meant to help student-athletes find classes that would fit into their schedules, according to the report. They disputed assertions that the list was made up of easier courses at Stanford, widely regarded as one of the most academically stringent universities with big-time Division I sports.

"An objective evaluation of the courses included on the list reveals several courses that most students would consider to be academically rigorous," said Austin Lee, director of the Athletic Academic Resource Center, according to the report. He did not specify which classes would be considered rigorous.

Some professors were unfazed by their classes appearing on the list, saying they didn't mind accommodating athletes and were glad to have added interest in their courses. Others, hearing their courses were on the list, wanted their classes removed, according to the report.

Sociology professor Cecilia Ridgeway said she talked to the athletic department about removing one of her classes from the list, but was told it did not exist, according to the report. She said the class in question is academically challenging, adding that student-athletes had failed it in the past.

Athletes picked up a copy of the list at the center or heard about it by word of mouth, according to the report.

Stanford officials said any student could have obtained the list at the center. But former Stanford athletics official Susan Simoni Burk, who oversaw the center's advising efforts between 1995 and 2009, said non-athletes rarely had reasons to visit the center, according to the report.

"[Copies of the list] were put on a table, and usually they were gone within the first day," she said, according to the report.