A drama class in “Beginning Improvising” and another in “Social Dances of North America III” were among dozens of classes on a closely guarded quarterly list distributed only to Stanford athletes to help them choose classes.
Stanford officials said the list was designed to accommodate athletes’ demanding schedules and disputed that the list was made up of easy courses. Officials discontinued the list last week after student reporters working for California Watch began asking about it.
The list, which has existed at least since 2001, was widely regarded by athletes as an easy class list. More than a quarter of the courses on the list did not fulfill university general education requirements.
“It’s definitely not going to be a hard class if it’s coming off that list,” said Karissa Cook, a sophomore women’s volleyball player, who consulted the list to pick classes in her first quarter at Stanford.
The classes on the list were “always chock-full of athletes and very easy As,” added Kira Maker, a women’s soccer player, who used the list her freshman year.
Titled “courses of interest,” the list was distributed by the Athletic Academic Resource Center. Advisers in other departments at the University said they were unaware such a list existed.
Stanford has long mandated equal scholastic footing among all undergraduates, including athletes. Many of its student athletes, in fact, have distinguished themselves in the classroom, notably football stars Andrew Luck, who has a 3.5 GPA, and Owen Marecic, who plans to graduate this year with a degree in human biology. The university’s hard-line approach has rankled some coaches over the years who have watched talented recruits go elsewhere because they didn’t measure up to Stanford’s academic standards.
But some faculty and students say the list may have offered an academic advantage for the athletes who requested it — especially since the general population was unaware it was even available. The Athletic Academic Resource Center didn’t advertise the list or post it on its website. But athletes have been known to ask for it.
Athletes said they heard about the list by word of mouth or simply picked up the document at the resource center.
“There’s a perception that the classes are easier,” said Carly Villareal, captain of the Stanford women’s crew team. “Some of the classes are substantially easier.”
Austin Lee, director of academic services at the Athletic Academic Resource Center, disagreed.
“An objective evaluation of the courses included on the list reveals several courses that most students would consider to be academically rigorous,” Lee said. He did not identify specific classes.