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JUNIOR/COMMUNITY COLLEGES
ACADEMIC MONITORING OF STUDENT-ATHLETES
(Tuesday, June 12- 10:00- 11:30 a.m.)

VIN CULLEN:

OUr speaker today is Jim Harvey from Miami Dade CC-South. He will talk about Academic Monitoring of Student Athletes.

JIM HARVEY:

We make it very clear to our student-athletes what our rules are. We talk about what we consider our campus expectations are for them, on the road, representatives of our institution, the way they dress, and the way they behave. We also talk about NJCAA rules and then we spend time talking about our academic monitoring process. We make it very clear so they know what we expect. They don't have to have A's in every class, but they better have their tail there or they will not be on a team.

We developed a simple three-page student-athlete guide for tutorial and support services on our campus. I called each division on campus together to get information. We collected this information and provided every student with a guide. If a student had a problem in a certain class, they would like refer to the guide, call that office and go in for help. Most of these are at no charge. We also keep it posted in the office and keep plenty of copies on hand.

Keep in mind that we're in the first three days of school and we've already done a couple of things. We've sent a letter out to the faculty. We've had an orientation meeting with the kids and they also got their tutorial guide within the first couple of days. It doesn't matter if they're freshmen or sophomores. Within the first five days of the term, I review every student's schedule. I look for appropriate classes that they should be taking for their academic level. They're not allowed to be in four or five physical education classes. They must be taking elective courses that are appropriate to their study. If they're not, they are called in immediately and they have to change their schedule. That sounds time-consuming and it is, however, if you think about three or four hours of your time as opposed to the mistakes that can be made during the year or during two years, it's worth it.

This has to be done during the first two weeks of school because in our system, within the first five days, if you don't make a change, you don't get a refund. You would have to pay for classes allover again. We've just instituted a penalty for late registration.

We asked for some help from our Registrar several years ago. We code every student-athlete into our registration system. It took about a year to do this, but once it was done, it became a very valuable asset. If a student has to make a change in his schedule, he has to come back to me. I am the only person who can clear their schedule for a change. This only pertains to the l2-credit barrier. So, if you have a student that has 16 credits and he wants make a change on a three-credit class, the computer won't stop him. Anytime he tries to affect that l2-credit barrier, the computer will automatically red-flag it. We call this our lock. Again, it costs us nothing.

I have an assistant in power to make changes due to the fact that I'm either on the road or in meetings. If one or the other of us aren't there, then they are out of luck. They are not allowed to make any changes unless we authorize it.

We do have another safeguard that guards against a criminal element. Let's assume a student forges my signature. Every Monday, I get a computer printout from our Registrar's Office with a review of all changes. If I see a person below l2-credit hours and I don't remember signing anything for this person, I will find it. We had a student forge my signature. Not only was this student dropped from the program, but we also forfeited the two game we won that week.

We take every student in every sport and put them into our data file. We add their schedules to the data file. Those schedules are basically the course, the sequence number and the instructor teaching that course. We put it into the computer and we cross-reference it. From that we generate a letter to everyone of those instructors. That sounds like a lot of letters, but it really isn't. We use a faculty member to help us and it takes only about two days to do it all.

Once we have the data file, we're now into the term. We now send a letter to the faculty on the 4th week and on the 12th week of the term. Our terms are 16 weeks long. It's a very brief letter and it's right to the point. We tell them what we need and when we need it. The return letters are sent directly back to me. The letter basically says we would like to solicit your help to assist us in our attempt to monitor the academic progress of students who wish to participate in our intercollegiate program. We're proud of the fact that for the last six-years, Miami Dade South has led all 28 community colleges in Florida in the academic achievement by student-athletes. In order to promote and stress our academic demands on students, we need your help. In brief, we have attached a list of students who are attending your class. Please take a moment to give us a comment on these students. We also list what we want to know. We require that successful academic performance by our student-athletes is a prerequisite to participation. Your comments help greatly in assisting us and stress academics as our first priority.

I don't look at names anymore. The very first student suspended from our program was a men's basketball player. He was a starter and scoring 28-points a game. This will help you to do some soul searching and not overlook those students when you are tempted to.

The emphasis in the letter identifies four areas of concern. We ask for their academic standing. Do they have an "A", "B", or an "F"? What's going on? What about their attendance? What suggestions do you have? Give us some ideas on what kids can do to improve in your class. Do they need tutorial help? Do they need to come and see you? Is there extra credit? What kind of effort do you think they're putting forth in your class? What kind of attitude do they have? We made the form simple because we didn't want it to take too long to fill it out. The important thing is that I get it back, not that they write lO-pages of dialogue.

We ask for attendance. Is their attendance excellent, good or poor. Your opinion on attendance may be totally different from mine. A person might have five absences from class and you may think they have excellent attendance. I may think it's poor. I want to know their opinion and I want to know the number of unexcused absences. Different people have different rules. Some people consider athletic trips excused and some do not. Some people consider religious holidays excused and some do not. We have gone from just plain absences to unexcused absences. By the way, some of my coaches have a problem with this, because I have very little flexibility when it comes to whether they're excused or not. I put the responsibility back onto the student.

I'm a very strong believer in that class attendance is plus or minus one letter grade. I don't have any data or any research to prove that. My experience tells me that a student who attends every day, goes to every class, fails every exam, has a very good chance of passing a course. I've seen it year after year.

Some students believe me on this philosophy, some do not. Those are usually the kids who end up paying the price. I'm a strong believer that attendance is plus or minus one letter grade.

When I get these forms back I immediately read them that day, even if I have to stay after work that night, because we only do this twice a term. I review them and make some comments, then the secretary makes copies of all of the reviews and the originals go into a binder by sport. I give copies to the coaches. It is their responsibility to review these with their kids. They have to enforce what's on them in a positive sense. They must tell them they're doing great or tell them where they have problems and try to help them. I issue suspension letters that day. I do not wait. Then I send out what I call the "bad news" letters. These letters can include a warning, a suspension or dismissal from the program.

We warn the student when I feel that they are borderline. The first reporting period is a four-week period. If a student has three unexcused absences, he or she is suspended. If they have two, they are warned. You can do it with whatever numbers you want. I happen to pick the number three and three is my cut-off, whether you're the son of the President of the United States, it doesn't matter.

On the second go-around at l2-weeks, I use the number five. You may want to be more liberal than that, but I think probably five is more than liberal. The suspension is for seven calendar days for poor class attendance and performance. These students may not participate in any phase of our program during that time. That means practice, training room, games, going on road trips and they can't sit on the bench. You basically don't exist. I list the students being suspended and they may return to the team on such a date. If this problem should re-occur, these students will be suspended indefinitely. It is suggested that these suspensions be announced to all members of all teams. How long do you think it takes to get the message around that you better get to class?

I can't tell you how much more our relationship with our faculty has improved. It's just astounding. I'm reacting to what a faculty member tells me on a piece of paper. I am not doing anything else after that. You've got to understand the student's side of it also. They can accept the suspension or they can plea their case. I send them to the faculty member to clear up any questions. The student is then told that after he has talked to the faculty, it is up to the faculty to advise me of the decision. I place the respon~ibilityon the student to prove to me that what he has been suspended for is not true.

We do put SODJe meat behind it. Again, we do it early in the term so that the message gets out to everybody very quickly, "don't skip class." If you do, you're taking the chance that you will get caught. When we first sent out these letters, 34 percent of the faculty responded. I thought it was awful. However when the word got out the first fall semester, the students who were getting suspended were going to the faculty members and saying I need extra help, etc. All of a sudden, the faculty realized that someone was holding these people accountable for going to class. This year, we had 93 percent response from our faculty out of close to 900 letters. The attitude of the faculty has changed for the positive.

There have been a lot of changes in attitude. My attitude has changed considerably. The biggest change has been in our faculty on campus. My coaches have had a change in attitude. At first, some of them were skeptical. You take a starting point-guard away from a basketball coach half way through the conference schedule and things get pretty serious. By us finding problems early, both academic problems and attendance problems, the whole program has improved.

Five years ago, from fall term staring with January 1 eligibility, we lost 23 students to eligibility. This year, we lost two because of this program. Each year since, we have not had higher than five percent loss. There are tremendous intangible benefits. Our parents attitudes have also been amazing. They reinforce this program like you can't believe. Their attitude has been so favorable that it helps us when recruiting because now the message is out to parents and to public schools that we require students to do certain things.

We do not notify the parents. We treat our students as adults and theyare required to notify their parents. We have nothing to do with the parents in this regard. We do accept all phone calls and communications with parents, but we don't initiate or generate any. I feel they are a college student and they are entitled to their own privacy.

The four-year institutions have taken a tremendous interest in what we're doing. I was asked a question sometime back about Prop 48 and my comment was, "the smart Division I school and the smart Division I coach are going to look for a community college for a student who's Prop 48 and recommend that that student go to that community college which gives them the academic support and discipline to be able to handle a four-year institution. The smart coach will want to find a place who takes care of these students academically and athletically. Academics is the greatest concern of a Division I coach upon transfer because any intelligent Division I coach is not going to accept a transfer who has a 2.0 grade-point average. That's borderline. That student will not make it past his/her junior year at a four-year school." Our position with Florida institutions has accelerated tremendously.

Our image among our peers at the college has been amazing. There aren't any other ways to explain it. Our public relations in our own community has been great. People who previously questioned what comes out in the newspapers about kids cheating in class and on SAT's are now looking at us and saying, "there is a better way." It doesn't require any more than common sense. That's what this whole program is about.

Our academic integrity has been justified. Our credibility with parents and our faculty and community has been great. We put as much effort into academics now as we did five-years ago. Don't misunderstand me. We're just approaching it a little differently so that more people are involved.

From a student's perspective, the prime ingredient is time management. Students, traditionally, coming out of high school are terrible in managing their time. We try to help them in that area. Tell your students to write down; how many hours a week do you spend in your social life, how many hours do you spend in class, how many hours in team meetings, how many hours in practice time, how many hours in personal time. Have them go all the way through and finish with, how much time do you spend studying and doing homework. When you finish that, ask those kids to add up the total number of hours they wrote down. Then ask them to take 24 and multiply that by seven, and watch what happens. I will guarantee you, without question, that you will come about 40-hours over the available week. How can they be putting in more than 40 hours than the total week has available? The point there is that they have to watch their time very closely and manage their time very closely. Time is their most important commodity. They don't have a whole lot of time for fooling around.

The National Education Association found that the average study time for a high school student in America is 15-minutes per day. That's what we are inheriting.

We provide our students with a form to help them manage their time. Our coaches provide the kids with this form to take to their instructors the day before they go on a road trip. We ask the students to put their sequence number and the name of their instructor on this form and whether that instructor gives them approval or rejection to make up work. The purpose of this is to increase communication. The more and more communication we can generate between the student and the faculty member, is the secret to success.

We do mean business. It's not meant to be a punitive program. It's meant to be a helpful program. It must start with punitive measures to get people's attention up front.

Thanks for having me.