For varsity athletes, the window of opportunity just opened a little wider. Starting this semester, varsity athletes could register first in their classes' registration windows, regardless of the last two digits of their social security number.
The policy will only extend to athletes on the active roster-almost 10 percent of undergraduates. Also, athletes will only get first dibs in course selection for the semesters in which their seasons are played.
"[This policy] allows varsity athletes to choose classes that they can consistently go to," said Dean of Trinity College Robert Thompson, who spearheaded the policy effort. "Travel and practice schedules make [scheduling] particularly difficult for athletes."
Thompson said that because Curriculum 2000 will put even more demands on student-athletes, this policy is necessary to alleviate the stress of fulfilling requirements while allowing athletes to attend classes regularly and fulfill team obligations.
"I'm actually one of the people who opposed it for years and years. For a long time, I felt that athletes should be as much like the rest of students in everything," said Chris Kennedy, associate director of athletics. "What changed my mind about it is it used to be pretty easy to schedule what you needed before 2:30.... But scheduling has changed enough that it was getting very difficult to do without [early registration]."
Kennedy cited two precipitating factors as to why scheduling has become so complex. In the past few years, early morning classes-which used to be standard-have been shifted to the late afternoon because of student preference; additionally, practice for most varsity sports has become a year-long commitment.
Some pre-major advisers were surprised to hear about the change, saying that they were not notified of the new policy and only became aware of it after students came to talk to them. Thompson said he initially did not mention the program because he was unsure if it could be implemented this semester. Once it came to his attention, he said, he immediately rectified the situation by sending an e-mail to all pre-major advisers.
Nevertheless, an official explanation of the policy was not enough to convince some faculty members, who have raised the question of equity.
"If the purpose of this policy is to make sure that athletes get into the classes they need, then other students are being excluded from those same classes," said pre-major adviser Jack Bookman, associate professor of the practice of mathematics. "It's a zero-sum situation."
Student reaction to this policy has run the gamut. "I can see why they did it because [athletes] have to make their practice schedules," said sophomore Alexis Downs. "But everyone has a tough time fulfilling requirements."
Others echoed this sentiment, adding that many students have inflexible schedules due to work-study or extracurricular commitments. "If athletes have special needs, so do work-study students... and we all know that Duke is not that hospitable to working-class and middle-class students," Bookman said. "We could go on and on with a list of people who ought to have this privilege."
Thompson argued that it is more difficult to plan practice around an entire team's calendar than around one person's activities. He also added that there is no personal flexibility on when a game or tournament is scheduled.
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Senior Ricardo Pitts-Wiley agreed. "If you have a basketball game coming up, you have a basketball game," said Wiley, Duke Student Government equity liaison. "A DSG referendum can be put off a day if you have to."
Some varsity athletes felt that they could have managed without the early registration, but are still happy.
"I don't know how much it matters. I personally didn't think I would have had a terrible time," said sophomore Amanda Hughes, who plays on the women's lacrosse team. "But it helps [athletes] fulfill requirements."
Others are rejoicing at the fact they will have an edge in selecting classes.
"I think it's great," said freshman soccer player Michael Kovach. "Obviously, that may be a biased statement because I get to reap the benefits of this little policy."