Ramapo athletes can now register for classes in an earlier time slot, thanks to the efforts of the Student Government Association. SGA began advocating for this initiative after they noticed the need for priority registration expressed by many athletes was not gaining much traction.
“The Student Government Association here at Ramapo is to be the voice of the student body, it is our job to identify student concerns and act on them,” said senior Danielle Wankmuller, senate vice president for SGA and member of the women’s track and field team, in an email. “In this case we had a couple of hundred students at our school that felt as if they were being asked to put athletics before their academic career.”
The provost granted priority to athletes only in the semesters that they are competing. Therefore, while Ramapo has over 300 student athletes, making up six percent of the student population, only three percent of that population will receive priority registration in any given semester.
“This was done in order to meet the needs of both the general student body and the student-athletes,” said Wankmuller. “In season athletes can schedule around practice and competition and the general student population will not be dramatically affected by a large priority registration pool.”
Wankmuller, as well as junior Joey Weikl, led this movement. According to Wankmuller, coaches often put limitations on when athletes can or cannot take classes, and limited workout facilities make practices difficult to schedule, contributing to the need for priority registration for athletes.
“I spearheaded this issue three semesters ago, feeling that it was important to enable student-athletes to not only excel, but participate in their sport,” said Weikl, a student governor in SGA. “I thought that it was unfair that athletes had to build their classes around the constraint of practice and games with no support.”
The NCAA Division III constitution states in article 16.02.3 that priority registration for athletes is legal. The extra benefit clause reads, "Receipt of a benefit by student-athletes or their relatives or friends is not a violation of NCAA legislation if it is demonstrated that the same benefit is generally available to the institution’s students or their relatives or friends or to a particular segment of the student body determined on a basis unrelated to athletics ability.”
As explained by Wankmuller, as long as Ramapo allows priority registration for other members of the student body, it is permissible for athletes as well. Because peer facilitators and Ramapo Admissions student ambassadors already receive priority registration, the athletes are in the clear.
Ramapo is now in line with colleges like Kean, Montclair, William Paterson, Jersey City, Rutgers Newark and Rowan, who have already adopted priority registration for athletes.
“These schools and their models were questioned by the office of the president and this was a major factor in the Provost's decision. These institutions are comparable to us in size and they are Ramapo's key opponents in the admissions game,” said Wankmuller.
In order to gain priority registration for athletes, SGA, led by Wankmuller as the Student Government liaison to athletics, had to procure a number of different documents for the provost and the provost council to review. These documents included a signed bill from the SGA expressing a need for athlete priority registration, letters from every person that coaches a team on campus explaining the scheduling drawbacks of being both a student and an athlete, and a petition signed by 250 students who are not athletes to show that they are in support of this effort as well.
This initiative has been met with widespread support from the student-athletes.
“In DIII we don’t get a lot of recognition at this college and we put a lot of work in it,” said junior Graciela Morilla, a member of the women’s cross-country team. “With some sports you need to practice as a team, and sometimes you can’t because you have a class during then and it’s frustrating to the athlete and the coach, and it diminishes the performance of the team.”
However, others feel that student athletes should understand the potential scheduling conflicts they may encounter before deciding to commit to a sport.
“Having myself been a student athlete here at Ramapo, I do not believe that athletes should have priority registration,” said junior Michael Meltzer. “The reality is that at a DIII school we are not here to play a sport, we are here for an education. Choosing to play a sport here, while a huge undertaking, should be made as an informed decision, taking into account how the commitment will affect school work.”
Weikl expressed that the SGA advocated for this change as a benefit to the Ramapo community at large.
“The Student Government Association has a great deal of influence when it comes to student advocacy,” said Weikl. “When we want to effect a change on campus, we have the resources and the support to follow through. As representatives of the student body, we felt that this change would benefit the entire student population.”