Taking the easy way out - Confronting the stereotyped correlation between athletes and ‘easy’ majors
BY GILLIAN SULLIVAN-BING /// Staff Writer
The classes that Lewis & Clark offers, the professors that teach them and the students that take them vary to such a degree that it’s hard to imagine that at the end of the day, all academic achievement is measured by grades and GPAs. Given this variance, it seems only natural that comparisons between majors, courses and homework loads would take place. I think that it’s safe to say that numer- ous members of the LC community have their own notions of what constitutes an “easy” or a “difficult” major based on criteria such as the grading curve, pages of reading per week, number of papers per semester or having to write a thesis, as well as a student’s individual skills and aptitudes.
Although which majors can be labeled “easy” certainly varies from person to per- son, one correlation that I have heard since I first arrived at LC is that student-athletes tend to gravitate towards “easy” majors. In this case, “easy” is normally used to refer to Psychology and Rhetoric and Media Studies (formerly Communication). To hear this sentiment around campus brings up a lot of difficult issues, not the least of which is the idea that there is such a thing as an “easy” major. Regardless of how harshly a professor grades or how many lab hours are required, such criteria are not an adequate measure of how much effort a student puts into her courses and what she is able to take away from them.
Another tricky issue is the idea that a majority of student athletes do not take their academics seriously and go out of their way to find the easiest major. When I brought the issue up with Clark Jaeger, the Director of Physical Education and Athletics, he told me that the correlation between athletes and easy majors had been brought to his attention in the past but that he holds little stock in the notion. He is proud of LC varsity athletes and their wide-ranging interests, dedication and work ethic outside of sports. He put together a number of statistics for me that compare student-athlete major percentages with those of all LC undergrads.
On one hand, these statistics do show a high number of student-athlete Psych majors, 24% as compared to 14.1% of the larger student body. However, student-athletes’ majors vary greatly, the most popular five for the Fall 2011 semester being Psychology (24.6%), Biology (10.6%), IA (9.6%), Econ (6.4%) and Bio-Chem (5.9%), compared to the five overall most popular majors at LC, which are Psychology (14.1%), SoAn (9.0%), IA (8.9%), Biology (6.8%) and English (6.5%).
I don’t pretend to be a whiz at statistics and I know that there are a number of problems with comparing LC’s athletes to the rest of the population, for example the high number of athletes and non-athletes alike whose majors are undecided and the fact that varsity athletes only comprise about 10% of the LC population. However, from my point of view, the bare statistics show that student-athletes have a wide range of academic interests, representing both the natural and social sciences. As to the question of what constitutes an “easy” major, I think a more fruitful endeavor would be to explore the assumptions we make about groups on campus and whether or not there are better avenues available to us that will help us better understand our fellow students.