Student athletes are still students

The University of North Carolina is facing controversy and accreditation challenges following recent discoveries of academic fraud.

On Oct. 22, an independent review panel found academic fraud spanning the course of nearly 20 years at the campus, according to the associated press. There were allegedly hundreds of “fake” classes in African and Afro-American studies department that were geared towards athletes and did not require attendance, giving them a fake education and fake grade.

While it can appear at first glance that these classes are giving athletes an unfair advantage, the classes are actually a disservice and an insult to athletes and the rest of the student body. Besides the blatant racism in their choice of fake classes and who they’re geared to, providing students, regardless of whether they’re focused on athletics or academics, a sub par education or none at all is unforgivable.

Universities frequently recruit athletes based on talent rather than academic goals, but it should be noted that many student athletes are so focused on sports in high school, primarily with the intention of getting scholarships for colleges that they wouldn’t be able to afford otherwise. To let academics fall by the wayside for these students and exploit them only for their athletic talents is inexcusable.

Student athletes often struggle to keep up academically due to intensive training and practices, but that doesn’t mean their education should become secondary. Some universities put an emphasis on sports for the sake of funding and their image, but, as UNC has proven, this can clearly backfire when academic fraud is illuminated.

College athletes do deserve an extra level of support and accommodation, given their hectic schedules and the fact that they are representing their institutions. However, fraud is not the answer to their challenges, particularly not when it’s so blatantly exploitative.

While UNC’s issues coming to light is a step in the right direction, there are more issues in college sports that need to be explored and it’s unlikely that this is the only case of academic fraud that negatively impacts student athletes. What needs to be addressed further, and hopefully will in light of the UNC controversy, is the general attitude that student athletes are athletes first and students second.