Our student-athletes work hard. They study and train daily, representing the University of Dallas on the athletic field and in the academic forum; they give our community many reasons to be proud.
As a student body, we show pride in our athletes by affirming their contributions and attending their games. Within Student Government, we hear and communicate student-athlete concerns; we work to help facilitate events that foster school spirit, like Blue Crew’s recent (and highly successful) soccer tailgate.
For Student Government in particular, it’s important to recognize that listening to student-athlete concerns is just the first step. It’s our obligation to learn from these concerns and work to address them, delivering real results that last.
As a Junior Class Senator, and now as Student Body President, I’ve been truly inspired by the initiative our student-athletes take to get their concerns on the table. I want to carry this energy forward and convert it into policy.
To this end, I’ve identified two key opportunities for Student Government to act on these concerns.
Our first opportunity for action regards Monday-Thursday evening food access hours in the Haggar Cafe. A practical improvement in these hours would benefit not only Club-Sports and NCAA student-athletes, but also students who work mid-shift jobs that often end between 5:30-7:00 P.M.
For our NCAA student-athletes in particular, the Cafe’s current closing time often forces them to either blow through their declining balance at the Rathskellar, or go eat off-campus.
This situation constitutes an undue burden on our student-athletes that must be removed.
Addressing this issue isn’t just our job as a Student Government; it’s something that matters to me personally. The night after I was elected a Junior Class Senator, I sat down with 10 NCAA athletes, including six members of our men’s basketball team, to learn ways I could work to meet their needs.
They couldn’t have been more clear. Food access was one of their central concerns, and they asked me to do everything I could to work towards an improvement. Then and now, I’m fully committed to doing just that.
Every person on this campus should agree: student-athletes who have already purchased meal plans, shouldn’t be required to participate in additional, supplementary spending for their only post-practice food option,hitting those in need the hardest.
Student Government’s second opportunity to act strongly in support of our student-athletes is through giving the student-athlete community a guaranteed voice within the Senate. The only way to achieve this objective is to establish an NCAA Student-Athlete Senator.
As a Senator, I attended 5 different meetings of SAAC (our NCAA Student-Athlete Advisory Committee). Along with food access, the other primary concern they shared with me was representation. Here are three reasons why UD Student Government needs an NCAA Student-Athlete Senator.
Firstly, Student Government shouldn’t make campuswide decisions without a clear, fully enfranchised student-athlete voice at the table. Although SG has an “Athletic Liaison” position, this appointed role is neither political nor representative in nature, and liaisons have no vote on SG bills or motions.
Secondly, our international student population and our commuter student population have constituency-specific Senators. These Senators have done a tremendous job at carrying forward their constituency-specific concerns in a way that lifts up our entire student body; one of many examples is Sen. Farai Muvirimi’s work last year on reestablishing and executing a successful International Day program.
Like international and commuter students, our NCAA student-athletes also deserve constituency-specific representation. Yes, we’ve had Senators in the past who have also been student-athletes, and they have done a great job.
However, these past Senators have had to focus on representing their whole class, meaning they have limited time to devote to student-athlete-specific issues. Imagine what could be accomplished with an Athletic Senator who can prioritize and pursue student-athlete concerns, year round!
Thirdly, we need a constituency-specific NCAA student-athlete senator because student-athlete concerns will not always be the central legislative priority of the SG President. Different presidents have different agendas and priorities. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. But, student-athletes deserve a clear voice in Student Government, no matter what.
Now, I know that there will be administrative questions about the possibility of establishing an NCAA student-athlete senator. Well, it’s been done before. In fact, Boston College established such a senator last semester. Bearing this in mind, I’d like to publicly share the two most frequent questions I’ve received.
I’m often asked, “How would this senator be elected?” This is a good question, with a simple answer. This senator would be elected by the NCAA population.
Alongside Sen. Lizz Winkler, a member of the women’s lacrosse team, I’ve met with Athletic Director Dick Strockbine and Coach Jarred Samples, who have told me that they have a system in place to determine eligible voters with proper standing. This system is ready-to-go, and will ensure electoral integrity.
Many have also asked, “How can we help make this happen?” If you’d like to help, the best thing to do is contacting a Senator you know. I also highly encourage you to attend the Constitutional Review Committee’s public forums, or our regular Student Government meetings on Mondays, and advocate for the establishment of an constituency-specific NCAA Student-Athlete Senator.
School spirit and pride must be founded in caring community, and we must work to more fully integrate and effectively serve the student-athletes who represent us so well.
Senior Class Senator Lizz Winkler has taken strong action to help student-athletes. In addition to advocating for better food access and the establishment of an NCAA Student-Athlete Senator, Sen. Winkler hopes to empower the SAAC, saying she hopes to continue, “Working with [team] captains to develop and further establish the SAAC so that student-athletes can work together to support the community as a whole.”
The SAAC’s work is important, and it’s certainly true that not everything goes through Student Government. But it’s also true that much work lies before us.
Working together, we can better support our student-athletes and build a more unified UD. Let’s get it done!