Illustration by Peter Shallow.

After years of discussion and debate, Stanislaus State’s Academic Senate has finally granted priority course registration to the school’s student-athletes.

Before Tuesday’s resolution, Stan State was the only CSU campus with an athletics program that did not give their student-athletes priority registration.

The topic of priority registration for student-athletes has been discussed and debated by several members of the campus community for many years. Several student-athletes even expressed their concerns regarding priority registration to the Signal in the past.

This topic has been debated in the Academic Senate for nearly 14 years, starting when the Athletics Department was granted a seat on the Senate.

Additionally, since 2015, student-athletes seeking priority registration have received the backing of Stan State’s student government. That year, a resolution was passed stating that ASI would support the idea of the school giving early registration for student-athletes.

Before officially holding a vote during Tuesday’s Academic Senate meeting, members of the Senate heavily debated the issue and questioned one another as to why this issue had not yet been resolved.

ASI President Maria Marquez was at Tuesday’s Academic Senate meeting and was very involved in the discussions. “This has been a student concern that has been brought up constantly to ASI, and of course, ASI amplifies this student group’s voice when they express their concerns and needs to us, especially since we are the only CSU who do not offer it to our student athletes.”

“Offering priority registration to our student athletes may not solve all of their issues, but it can help them address some of the current obstacles they face as student-athletes,” Marquez continued. “Being a student athlete is a choice, but many decisions in what our students want to get involved in during college is a choice. Student-athletes are students. They should have priority registration because they market our university and represent the Warrior family outside of our campus grounds and put in so many hardworking hours to do so,” Marquez said.

After a long and thorough conversation between those on both sides of the argument, an official vote was finally held. After it was all said and done, 23 members of the Academic Senate voted in favor of giving student-athletes priority registration while 18 members voted against it. Two members of the Senate abstained.

Stan State women’s soccer coach Gabriel Bolton has been very involved in supporting Stan State’s student-athletes and their desires to receive priority registration. He expressed his pleasure upon hearing the news of this issue being resolved and explained how this decision will affect his players and all other student-athletes at Stan State. 

“Student-athletes have to abide by very strict NCAA rules when it comes to academics.  It is almost impossible for our student-athletes to follow those rules without priority registration,” Bolton explained. “At one point or another, almost all of my players have run into issues when it comes to creating a schedule that allows them to abide by NCAA rules and compete in their sport.  That’s why this is so important.”

What exactly are these strict rules that so many student-athletes struggle with every semester? Jenna Zuniga (junior, Kinesiology), a member of Stan State’s women’s soccer team and the president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, explained them in great detail.

“The NCAA requires student athletes to be full-time, we must be enrolled in at least 12 units while maintaining a 2.0 GPA,” Zuniga explained. “We are also required to pass at least nine units in the fall [and] 24 by the end of spring.

“Each major has their prerequisites and major courses, but when these courses are full by our registration date, we're left having to choose courses that don't help us make progress towards a degree,” Zuniga continued.

What athletes have struggled with the most, according to Zuniga, are the time constraints. “Each sport has a certain time block during the day where they aren't allowed to schedule class because of practice,” she explained. Because of these roadblocks, most student- athletes tend to pick up a minor just to stay eligible to play.

As a student-athlete herself, Zuniga knows just how much priority registration will help those who are in tough situations. She says that student-athletes often have twice as much responsibility than the average student, so it’s important that they are able to register for the courses that best fit their extremely busy schedules.

Zuniga also made it clear that very few student-athletes have an athletic scholarship. “There are those few exceptions who also have to work, on top of classes and practice. This is another constraint, which has made creating a stable schedule very difficult.”

Zuniga says that student-athletes strive to provide their best effort in the classroom and on the field, court, track, or course, but that can only be possible when students are taking the necessary courses with manageable schedules.

Stan State athletics director Terry Donovan said that he is very pleased with the Academic Senate’s vote. He described the achievement as “historic” and “monumental.”

Bolton reflected on the long process that eventually helped this idea and need come to fruition. “There was a process for getting priority registration.  It required research, building a coalition of support, and people to guide it through the process.  Those things take time.”

“It took a very broad-based coalition of people over the course of many years to make this happen.  I think it is a great lesson in how teamwork, perseverance, advocacy, and shared governance are meant to work,” Bolton continued.

Zuniga also took some time to thank those who fought for the resolution in the past and expressed her excitement for what’s to come. “There are many before my time here at Stan that have helped pave the way. I want to say thank you [to them] and I am excited to see current and future Warriors benefit from this resolution.”

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