Editorial: Pitt athletes can enroll early. They shouldn’t get the chance.

Earlier this semester, administrators okayed a change to let student athletes register early to prevent schedule conflicts with practices and games. Theo Schwarz | Senior Staff Photographer

Pitt’s student-athletes are getting a free head start, but instead of racing toward a trophy, they’re filling up classroom seats.

According to an email from academic counselors within the athletic department, Pitt’s senior administrators have signed off on early class registration for athletes so they can avoid scheduling classes that conflict with practice and game times. There is no written policy in place yet, and at least one academic counselor for Pitt’s varsity athletes instructed recipients of the email to “be indifferent” when discussing the new rule. The change, according to Executive Vice Provost David Dejong, is supposed to accommodate “students who have large demands on their time for official University purposes.”

To review, that means the University instituted an ambiguous, unofficial policy about which most students should be ignorant. The only defined qualification is being a varsity student athlete, but we’re assured that other students, too, including those with disabilities — will be able to reap the benefits.

Other students may be granted, on a case-by-case basis, the opportunity to register early, according to Juan Manfredi, the vice provost for undergraduate studies. But the University has never explicitly made that clear, nor has it laid out any sort of official template for the type of obligation that would make someone eligible for early registration.

The needs of Pitt athletics are rising above the interests of other students at Pitt, and there’s no good reason for it.

Many students have demanding schedules like Pitt’s athletes do. We attend classes and have jobs and internships to structure our schedules around. Yes, these student-athletes work hard to balance travel schedules and course loads. Getting into a course that fits their lifestyle is obviously important to their success. But it’s just as important to the success of every other student on this campus.

What about students with work-study plans? They’re employed in jobs that generally benefit the University in some way, and those jobs occupy a significant amount of their time. Do they fit the standard to get to register early? What about members of Pitt’s Student Government Board or the Blue and Gold Society? Are teaching assistants or students who do research entitled to course selection benefits?

Athletes already receive scholarships worth thousands of dollars. Apparently, they need enrollment preferences, too, and they are supposed to silently shrug if someone asks them why.

Manfredi said in an email that every school in the ACC except Pitt and Boston College allow early registration for student-athletes. The defense seems to be that since our athletic competitors offer the benefit, we are lagging behind by not doing so. But all that means is that these other schools also boost athletes above their peers. That doesn’t make it ethical or even necessary.

A prospect probably will not turn down a Pitt offer because they have to enroll at the same time as everyone else. And current athletes will still likely graduate on time even though they have to register for classes alongside their peers.

Realistically, this rule will have a limited effect on the ability of regular students to find the classes they need — varsity student-athletes only consist of 2 to 3 percent of the student body. The problem is that this new policy confirms Pitt’s priorities. Athletics have always had a firm position at the top.

The University claims the benefits will extend to others, including those with disabilities, so our request is pretty clear: prove it. Until you can, play favorites in the open or not at all.

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Matt Moret:
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