The Ohio University Chapter of the American Association of University Professors formally requested for Sook Center, a planned advising center for student-athletes, to not be under control of the athletic department.

“We are addressing these issues really as an attempt to get ahead of the curve here at Ohio University before we have to contend with any scandals related to academics and athletes. There have been a number of scandals nationwide, including at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, which has exploded into twenty-some cases in the last five to six years,” Loren Lybarger, president of Ohio University’s Chapter of the American Association of University Professors, said.

Members of the OU chapter of the American Association of University Professors held a press conference in Lindley Hall on Tuesday. The chapter believes athletic department control of the advising center raises “urgent concerns” about the integrity of OU’s academic mission, according to a news release. 

“Let me tell you what this is not about. First of all, this is not an academics versus athletics issue, this is an Ohio University issue,” David Ridpath, a member of the association, said.  “This is in no way intended to impugn the integrity of anyone associated with academic support for the athletic department … However, this is a needed move to protect the institutional integrity of Ohio University and governing an academic support function the way that other academic support entities are governed on this campus.”

The news release also details the potential negative consequences the athletic department’s control of the center and suggests that the Sook Center be an “auxiliary service” under the direct supervision of an academic office, meaning that office would control the center’s supervising, financing and management. 

The news release cites NCAA bylaw that requires student-athletes to be treated the same academically as the rest of the student body. The Sook Center, if controlled by an academic office, would serve the entire student body. That would eliminate the risk of NCAA violations, the association argues.

The news release states that the concern about losing control of advising is “wrongheaded” because it focuses on maintaining NCAA eligibility and does not prioritize the academic needs of student-athletes.

The Coalition of Intercollegiate Athletes, of which OU is a member, has issued similar recommendations, the news release states. The coalition recommends that athletic academic advisors be a part of the general advising structure of the university.

“I am typically not a fan of fixing things that are not broken, but at institutions, like UNC, where scandals have arisen, these institutions would have been in a better position to prevent problems, or limit their scope, if academic advising had been housed within the existing academic advising bodies of the institution,” Chris Schwirian, faculty representative for the Coalition of Intercollegiate Athletics, said. 

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