Sunday January 17, 2010
Taking things for granted
By Dr ARZMI YAACOB
THE time is 9am. The student comes in an hour late for his lecture and nods at the lecturer as he takes his seat in the hall. He has done this countless times before yet he does not feel guilty, nor does he see the need to apologise.
After all, he feels justified in making the grand entrance — he had attended a rigorous sports training session the evening before, and was too exhausted to get up early for class.
Despite his minimum entry qualifications to varsity, the athlete has been accepted into a local university. The move is a special arrangement available only to sportsmen, to ensure they secure a better future once their stints in sports are over.
The athlete’s status in a national or state squad may be something the faculty and university are proud of, but his tardiness at lectures and tutorials and in meeting deadlines and assignments, is not acceptable.
The athlete is not alone. There are many sportsmen like him who tend to take the system for granted.
They blame the lengthy training sessions whenever they are questioned for coming in late to class, or worse, not attending class.
The athletes who represent the country and states at various international, national and state-level sports meets, should set good examples for their peers.
Just as they train hard in their chosen fields, they should do the same when it comes to earning their degrees.
The athletes are also given preferential treatment — they are allowed to take fewer subjects per semester, and given a longer period to complete their degree.
With such privileges, they should make it a point to be serious about their studies. Unfortunately, many of them don’t.
I must say that the special treatment accorded to them is part of a university’s social responsibility in helping national and state athletes. In return, it expects them to project a good name of the university. While some athletes have done their varsity proud, there are others who don’t.
When an athlete doesn’t make the academic grade and is asked to leave by the institution, letters to the dean arrive by the dozens.
They come from parents, coaches, managers and even organisations, all appealing that the athlete concerned be given another chance. Failure in accepting him back would be seen as a heartless act by the institution.
Then there is the constant interference by sport officials telling institutions how to deal with the athletes.
The officials seem to think they know how best to deal with them, even in assesssing their academic work!
Instances of sports officials from various organisations seeking the release of an athlete from the varsity for an indefinite period, so that they can attend training, in preparation for an international game or major sports event, are also common.
The patrons of such organisations, being people of high standing, expect the institution to give in to their request. Many athletes will attend training even before the dean of their respective faculty gives the official green light.
Once their training and the big event is over, the athletes don’t immediately get back to their books and lectures. Instead, they regard this period as time to recuperate not only from exhaustion, but to catch up and visit their families.
The games are then used as the perfect excuse to justify their poor grades!
Academics and fellow students do not usually resent the special treatment or privileges accorded to the athletes.
What they resent, however, is the athletes’ attitude, and how they take things for granted.
While others work hard and burn the midnight oil to catch up on their studies and projects, these athletes are privileged enough to have longer deadlines. Yet, they often break the rules and expect to get away with it.
They must realise that a privilege carries with it a sense of responsibility and obligation.
While many institutions are determined to provide assistance in ensuring athletes obtain the necessary paper qualifications, they also expect the sportsmen to put in effort, and be respectful and courteous to their lecturers and peers at the varsity.
Student athletes must therefore use the opportunities given to them. Once the privileges are abused, it is only right that they leave.
Being a national athlete and student is by no means easy. However, one can strike a balance with perseverance and self discipline.
It is these qualities that will distinguish those who seek to achieve from those who expect sympathy.
The sooner such athletes realise the importance of success and a sound education, the better it is for all concerned. They have to look beyond and choose a career path.
The athletes must bear in mind that many varsities go the extra mile in accepting them. The good name of an institution can be tarnished should the sportsmen act and behave irresponsibly.
■ The writer is an associate professor at a local university. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org