The Rundown

Student-athletes are an easy target. They are visible, public figures. More so, they are people to be envied. That’s why they are the first ones to be blamed in any situation.

Mix any kind of incriminating act with student-athlete presence and you won’t be surprised about what people will hone in on. And it’ll be from everyone’s lips (and keyboards): in court, from the parents, in the stands, on the newscasts, the blogs and the newspapers, too.

But you can’t lose touch with the fact that they are just kids; college-aged kids.

So do we expect more from student-athletes then from regular students? And if we do, is it right to do so?

We expect it from professional athletes. If your favorite Yankee or Met were involved in a scandal, you would expect it to be covered and reported. But can we hold similar standards to athletes still attending school?

According to the St. John’s athletics department, yes. “We have very high expectations from our student-athletes,” said Athletics Director Chris Monasch. “There’s mostly benefits to being a student athlete but it also comes with a higher level of expectation.”

Part of that higher level of expectation is outlined in St. John’s Student-Athlete Code of Conduct.

The Code covers all of the obvious (policies on drugs, gambling, and hazing) but also makes mention of other interesting limitations. Consumption of alcohol, regardless of age, is prohibited: “in the company of recruits; while representing the St. John’s University Athletic Department; in department-issued St. John’s University athletic gear”
Student-athletes are also held to ideals. They “must adhere to such fundamental values as respect, fairness, honesty, civility, and responsibility. Their actions shall at all times reflect the high standards of honor and dignity.”

They may seem like pretty standard things to abide by but average students are not held as strictly to them, and the average student isn’t punished for not reflecting “high standards.” To quote the Code, “Failure to comply may be sufficient grounds for reduced or non-renewal of athletic financial aid, and disciplinary action up to and including suspension or dismissal from the team.”

These are the general outlines that all St. John’s teams are required to abide by. There are also team-specific rules while traveling that include “dress code, curfews, itineraries and meal plans.” Each player must travel with the team.

Despite the fact that there is such a strict level of control and high level of expectations from our student-athletes, they suffer from a bad reputation across the country.

It’s a case of the few making a bad name for the many. For instance, the Duke lacrosse scandal last year was a national media extravaganza. Regardless of who was really at fault, it helped build up the stereotype: student-athletes, especially lacrosse players, are irresponsible and dangerous.

St. John’s athletics history also doesn’t help to keep student-athletes’ reputations clean. Between paying basketball players and rape scandals in years past, it would be ridiculous to expect people to link collegiate athletics to high moral principle.

But, it shouldn’t affect our student-athletes now. We shouldn’t forget what’s happened and we shouldn’t be unprepared for anything bad. However we need to avoid letting the very small percentage of exceptions taint our view of the vast majority of exceptional student-athletes.

“Headlines give a very partial story,” Monasch said. “They (student-athletes) contribute to the community and the vast majority are outstanding.”

He added: “Student-athlete behavior is, at worst, comparable to regular students.”

So, while they are held to a higher standard, we do have to allow them some liberties. If not, where does it stop? Monitoring their study habits? Deleting their Facebook accounts? Disallowing them from hanging out on campus?

Let them be college students.