Athletics Committee
April 2000

The following committee report was presented to the Executive Committee of the Faculty Senate on April 17, 2000.

Tutoring, grade changes, and learning disability programs at the University of Tennessee Men's and Women's Athletics Departments

Executive Summary

The Faculty Senate charged the Athletics Committee with evaluating the tutoring of, grade changes for, and learning disability program for student-athletes. This paper summarizes the committee's findings and recommendations.

The committee commends the Athletics Departments for working to help the university educate student-athletes, including those at risk and with learning disabilities. The committee believes the Athletics Department programs can be improved. Note that the committee did not consider the advising of student-athletes nor did it investigate specific allegations of misconduct reported in the press.

The committee found competent, professional personnel staffed the academic programs of both Athletics Departments and policies and procedures that address most areas of this committee's concerns in place. Furthermore, the committee members were impressed with the responsiveness it received when requesting pertinent materials.

Based on its findings, the committee believes the programs can be improved and recommends the following:


Finding: The tutoring program because of potential problems needs more oversight. The oversight needs to occur at two levels. There needs to be institutional (academic) as well as direct supervision of the tutors. During the past several years there has been a high level of turnover in the supervisory personnel. In addition, tutoring currently takes place in multiple locations making supervision difficult. While the move to the new Athletic Student Life Center will resolve some concerns, the committee believes that greater involvement by University faculty would enhance the academic oversight of tutoring.

Recommendation 1:
A member of the UT faculty should be appointed to provide ongoing academic oversight of tutoring in the AD. This person should be directly involved in the orientation and training of tutors and should directly observe tutoring sessions on a regular basis. The committee suggests that this position be established under the Provost. However, the amount of time (1/2 to full) required for this position must be determined.
Recommendation 2:
A committee should be established that consists of
  • the men's and Women's NCAA compliance co-ordinators,
  • the NCAA faculty representative,
  • the Athletic Departments' Directors of Student Life,
  • a faculty representative from the Faculty Senate Athletics Committee, and
  • the faculty member mentioned in recommendation 1, who should serve as the committee chair.
  • This committee should meet on a periodic basis to review the tutoring system including any identified problems, the tutor manuals, and tutor training.
    Recommendation 3:
    All tutoring of Student-athletes, including study halls, but excluding other academic department's tutoring labs, should be conducted in the Student Life facility under direct supervision of a tutor coordinator.

    Finding: Current training provided for tutors needs strengthening and the manuals used by tutors need to more clearly state the roles and responsibilities of tutors. A review of tutor manuals provided by the other SEC schools found the UT manuals compared favorably.

    Recommendation 4:
    The roles and responsibilities of tutors including what is/is not allowable behavior should be clearly stated in the tutor manuals.
    Recommendation 5:
    The manuals should clearly state that tutors may not write any portion of any assignment for a student.
    Recommendation 6:
    The manuals should include a copy of applicable NCAA regulations concerning academic support and special benefit prohibitions, in addition to a summary of these regulations.
    Recommendation 7:
    The Athletics Departments should continue to require all tutors to complete a structured orientation session prior to beginning to tutor. Ongoing training should be required with documented periodic assessment (written and oral) of each tutor's understanding of policies.
    Recommendation 8:
    Additional guidelines for tutor activity should be established with the following policies:
    Tutors should not be allowed to tutor for a course he/she is teaching even if in a different section than the student being tutored.

    A tutor should not, under any circumstances, contact a course instructor. The student or the academic adviser must do this. A student's right to privacy must be upheld.

    The committee supports continued prohibition against tutors typing anything for a student-athlete.

    Finding: Potential problems can be avoided through a structured and appropriate screening in the selection of tutors, and through an institutionally developed system for the compensation of tutors.

    Recommendation 9:
    To the extent possible, tutors for student/athletes as well as all students should be graduate assistants established in the department whose specialty is needed. Tutors required to meet special needs are to be approved by the faculty member mentioned in recommendation 1.
    Recommendation 10:
    Tutor payment scales should be established with attention to educational level, experience, subject matter, continuing education, supply and demand, and merit.

    Finding: With regards to English 103 and 104, a problem exists between the English Department Writing Center and the Athletics Department

    Recommendation 11:
    The Athletics Department comply with the English Department requirements with regards to English103 and 104.

    Grade Changes

    Finding: There is relatively little difference between the frequency with which grades are changed for student-athletes and for students generally. The system currently in place adequately protects student and faculty rights and also reasonably ensures that a faculty member is not unduly pressured to change the grade of a student-athlete to maintain his/her eligibility or for other reasons. The system can be improved to assure that the NCAA Faculty representative can promptly review all grade changes affecting eligibility.

    Recommendation 12:
    The NCAA Faculty Representative needs the resources (qualified staff) and authority to fully monitor grade changes (ability to conduct an independent review of grade changes for grade changes that are used for athlete eligibility). This should include the review of individual grade change records and the periodic assessment of overall trends.

    Learning Disability (LD) Program

    Finding: The same individual currently administrates the "at risk" and LD programs in the Athletics Department. There is a risk that these programs may be inappropriately combined or at least the perception that they may be inappropriately combined.

    Recommendation 13:
    There needs to be some institutional oversight of how the Athletic Department implements the accommodations that have been approved for the LD student/athlete. The faculty member mentioned in recommendation 1 could conduct this institutional oversight. A regular review of the SNP program should be implemented This review should include a monitoring of how accommodations are being provided.
    Recommendation 14:
    Handle the "at risk" and LD programs independently within the Athletics Department.

    Finding: The LD student validation process is considered a strength.

    Recommendation 15:
    The work of the UT Athletics Accommodations Review Committee, chaired by Vice Provost, Mr. Phil Scheurer should continue. This committee provides valuable oversight of the program and is in a good position to catch and correct problems before they become widespread.
    Recommendation 16:
    The review by the independent psychologist of student-athlete cases should also continue. This review makes it more likely that student-athletes with learning disabilities will be properly identified and that those students will receive suitable accommodations.

    University-Wide Programs

    While evaluating the three areas with regard to the Athletics Departments, the committee identified some practices at a University level that require attention.

    Finding: It appears that faculty should become more sensitive to the needs of learning disabled students, including the requirements mandated for those students under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

    Recommendation 17:
    Provide mandatory training for faculty on working with student with learning disabilities. Educate the faculty on what the legal requirements are and what accommodations are prescribed for specific disabilities.

    Finding: The University's tutoring program is inconsistent across departments and could be greatly improved.

    Recommendation 18:
    Tutoring for students should be centrally coordinated and perhaps internet-based. Hilltopics should include accurate up-to-date information about the type of tutoring, eligibility and costs for all departments. Adequate resources should be allocated to insure that tutors are available in all subject areas.
    Recommendation 19:
    Tutor payment should be scaled across campus with attention to educational level, experience, subject matter, continuing education, supply and demand and merit.
    Recommendation 20:
    Peer tutoring programs should be encouraged and developed across campus.
    Recommendation 21:
    Office of Disability Services needs additional staff, including a testing specialist for testing students in general and evaluating test results for student-athletes to better supervise the documentation process, the prescription of accommodations, and keep up with the increasing work load.

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