Amidst widespread panic about the coronavirus that has taken the lives of 4,000 people worldwide, according to the World Health Organization, there have been colleges across the U.S. shifting away from in-person classes to online, off-campus schoolwork.
UCLA announced Tuesday that they are suspending classes through April 10, instead offering online classes from Tuesday until then.
Important update: UCLA is suspending in-person classes, offering final exams remotely starting Wed 3/10 through 4/10.
— UCLA (@UCLA) March 10, 2020
They also announced that they will be restricting access to games to “essential personnel,” which are listed as “student-athletes, coaches, team trainers and medical personnel, game officials, operational and administrative staff, and credentialed media members.”
The NCAA also announced that they are limiting game attendance, including March Madness, to “essential” people as well.
— NCAA (@NCAA) March 11, 2020
Keeping student-athletes on campus, having them play in games, when the rest of their classmates are being sent home for a month is wrong. They should not be treated differently. They are not paid for their work and they are not “essential personnel.”
Essential personnel are doctors, nurses and government officials. 20-year-old athletes are not essential to the state. Athletics are not essential to the state. Yes, they are important for campus cultures, but in no way do they deserve this title.
They should not be given privileges that other students are denied just because they make a university look good or make them money. March Madness should be cancelled, period.
If the NCAA is so keen on keeping them as “student-athletes,” then treat them as students. You can’t have it both ways: Either treat them the same as everyone else or pay them.
A piece of the UCLA memo also allows athletes not to partake in team activities should they feel uncomfortable:
“At this point in time, teams will continue to practice and compete; however, any student-athlete who does not feel comfortable traveling or participating in team activities will be excused from doing so.”
While well-intentioned, think about this for a second. What athlete is going to look at the rest of their teammates, who are likely playing conference games they have worked all year to get to, only to say “Nah, I think I’ll go home.”
High-level athletes do not work like that. They are ultra-competitive people who work hard. Putting them in danger by giving them an option to stay is irresponsible.
The Ivy League got it right. Universities should not be partaking in athletics should they decide to move students off-campus.
How dare universities decide to abruptly end seniors’ college careers by forcing them to take online classes, only to have other seniors get to live out the rest of their careers normally. Just because some students are more physically fit or more coordinated, does not mean they are special.
Universities are robbing thousands of students of weeks to months of their college experience, which is an incredibly expensive one at that. That decision should stretch to all of the students they govern. There is no picking and choosing which people you want your policies to impact.
Either let all students stay on campus, which honestly most colleges in the US should at this point, or send them all home. There is no in between.
The universities and the NCAA have the power, and they should be making better decisions with it.
The NCAA has not shown a track record for caring about their athletes, but today would be a damn good time to start.