The Privacy Paradox

April 27, 2011 Comments off

If you haven’t noticed, social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter have taken the web by storm. How we handle these sites affects all of us. For student athletes particularly, deciding what to post about yourself online has proven to be an important topic. Many schools across the nation have had issues with athletes being irresponsible online.

To better inform our student athletes here at Furman, I put together a video with the help of Daniel Spisak, a member of the football team.

Soccer for Japan Extravaganza

After the devastating effects of the Japanese earthquake and resulting tsunami, Furman’s soccer program organized an event in which students would play an 8 hour soccer match. Students were encouraged to give money and t-shirts were sold for $10. The event had a great turnout and was for a great cause! This is just another example of Furman student athletes giving back to the community.

 Here’s a video from the Furman Athletic website about the event…

Furman Players Arrested

Recently on Furman’s campus, several athletes were arrested for being heavily involved with an illegal substance distribution. I knew all of the people involved, and was mortified to hear about the events. Words cannot express how it feels to witness people that you know and care about become involved in such detriment. Not only are their athletic careers over, but they face very serious charges and jail time. I am sympathetic to their situations but there is no excuse for the poor decisions and lack of judgment that were displayed in their case.

As an advocate for Furman student athletes, it is difficult to respond to these latest events. I know that the situation is not representative of Furman athletics as a whole, and wish to move forward into the future and put these events beyond us.

Several weeks ago, I wrote an opinion piece and submitted it to The Paladin, Furman’s campus newspaper. I believe the subject of the piece applies to this situation. In the piece, I lay out why I think the NCAA should take a step back and allow athletes to make their own decisions – either good or bad.

Clearly, the players involved with this incident made horrible decisions; and law enforcement has responded appropriately. It’s tragic that it takes a situation like this to set an example and to remind people of the responsibility for their actions, but I believe it is necessary. It is my hope that student athletes can learn from this situation and make better decisions in the future.  

Here is my opinion piece, written in its original form, prior to these events.

A Right to Maturity

It is a familiar scene. A professional athlete stands in front of a camera with a somber look and struggles through an apology. Tiger Woods, Kobe Bryant, Pete Rose, Ben Roethlisberger are all great athletes, but each one of them dealt with a gut-wrenching confession, with the world watching.

Let’s be honest, though.  It is hard to feel sorry for these guys, these multi-millionaires. They have the world at their fingertips. And as professionals and role models, they should be held to higher standards.  Thus, teams and professional organizations are hiring mentors, advisors, and supervisors to monitor and coax their high-profile clients toward good publicity.

Are 18-22 year-old college athletes held to a similar standard? Surprisingly, the answer is yes. Unfortunately, this compounds the problem of adult immaturity and misbehavior.  NCAA policies, followed to the letter at Furman, are laying the groundwork for perpetual immaturity for student athletes.

 Today, more than ever, coaches and athletic department personnel monitor college athletes. Facebook profiles, Twitter accounts, classroom performance, and even weekend activities are subject to invasive supervision.

 As a student athlete at Furman University, I have seen firsthand these tactics. While it’s explained as “help” for the “adjustment process from high school to college,” it’s actually four years of extra monitoring, advising, and questioning. The NCAA has a rulebook the size of my BioChem textbook, explaining the dos and don’ts for student athletes. The university has a paid position for someone whose only job is to make sure all athletes reach compliance with the rules and regulations.

 Athletic departments’ reasoning seems to be, we pay for your education, we have the right to protect our investment. Athletes are subject to higher scrutiny because they are representatives of the school. But how does this logic stand up to students’ right to privacy? Honestly, it doesn’t.

 This is part of an increasing “full-access epidemic.” It’s everywhere. People want non-stop coverage of news, celebrities, and athletes. New technologies allow athletes to tweet during halftime, post photos on Flickr, and communicate to fans through blogs. Fans want to know more about their players, and coaches have to protect the team reputation to a new level.  This forces increased oversight over where athletes go, who they are with, and what they are doing.  Monitoring becomes non-stop.

 College is the time to grow up. We do our own laundry, manage our own schedule, and microwave our own Ramen noodles. It is the first time to get a taste of responsibility. But how many actually get it right the first time? The answer is not many.

 Learning to juggle the many aspects of life as a college athlete has advantages. Employers seek out student athletes because of their work ethic, competitive edge, and leadership abilities.

 But athletic departments are robbing athletes of that experience. In an effort to cultivate athletes who avoid “bad press” and meet certain academic standards, we never get a chance to learn on our own time and in our own ways.

 Like hypersensitive parents who never let the toddler get a bruise or touch the dirt, athletic departments are over-cautious. Rather than being an asset after graduation, the student athletes are not prepared to handle their own schedule or take their own risks.  College becomes another four years of hypersensitive parenting, now by a book and an institutional bureaucracy.

 Of course, this is all a matter of balance.  Student athletes do represent the school, so some additional scrutiny is warranted. Plus, let’s face it, athletes sometimes get in trouble, partly due to the time and responsibility pressures of a varsity-level sport. But they are not getting a chance to develop themselves as a responsible citizen. They learn how to follow orders and make just high enough grades to please the athletic department.  In other cases, they learn to get around excessive regulations with tricks and cover-ups. Either way, it is clear that the system does not teach them to be responsible citizens.

 Athletic departments have three choices.  One option is to continue the status quo.  A second option is to recruit students, hopefully like myself, who make the university proud, despite the potential for a decline in on-field performance. Let these students live without the constant feeling of oversight and scrutiny that stifles growth and real-world responsibility. Or, the university can allow students to suffer their own mistakes, despite the occasional “bad press.”  The occasional hit to Furman’s image would be overcome, ethically, by the fact that student athletes would become real adults, able to make their own decisions and live with the consequences. The status quo is the only option that is very unsettling.

 Author: Dakota Derrick is a junior communication studies major at Furman University and a quarterback on the school’s football team.

 Word Count: 770

Time Management

Furman is a unique place. Students are challenged to exceed the normal college expectations and develop into well-rounded, liberally educated citizens of the world. All of that sounds really nice right? But Furman also causes a lot of stress. Paper, test, project. Paper, test, project. Paper, test, project. Sometimes I feel like my semester is stuck on repeat. A full load at Furman can easily take away most of your nighttime and weekend activities; and on top of all this, try adding the time and energy commitment to play a sport. It is an overwhelming task.

However, learning to manage your time is a skill that everyone needs to learn at some point in their lives and Furman has taught us to do that. Basically, there are four main aspects to a collegiate athlete’s life: the classroom, the game field, the weight room, and the social scene. Balancing these four aspects proves to be a difficult process of give and take.

Learning to handle these 4 phases of my life has taken time and practice.
Learning to handle these 4 phases of my life has taken time and practice.

As I mentioned in my mission statement, I want this blog to serve as an information outlet for people who want to know what Furman athletics is about; but also I would like this to be somewhat of a tutorial for both current and future student athletes at Furman.

People have written entire books on time management. Actually, a lot of people have written a lot of books on time management. Those people have a lot more experience and have done a lot more research than I have, but here is what I have learned during my time at Furman.

  • Set your priorities. It is just a fact of life – you will never be able to do all the things you would like to do. You will constantly be faced with decisions about what is more important to you (This includes school vs. sport, class vs. class, nutrition vs. study time, etc…)
  • Make a study schedule. Set up a schedule at the beginning of the semester and stick to it! Procrastination ultimately infects everyone, but if you establish a schedule and make it a habit you will be better off.
  • Take advantage of your weekends. The weekend should be a time to recharge your batteries and get plenty of rest. Going out and drinking on Friday and Saturday nights is only going to make the following week miserable.

These are simple guidelines but they will go a long way if you implement them into your daily life. Take my advice and avoid struggling through your underclassmen years or learn the hard way, like I did.

Student Athlete Advocacy

DISCLAIMER: The views portrayed in this blog are my own. In no way do they represent Furman University, the Athletic department, or any part of the Furman administration.

This semester, I have taken on the project of advocating for student athletes at Furman University. This blog will be the flagship of my efforts and will serve as a way to demonstrate what I have done for student athletes.

I chose to advocate student athletes because, quite frankly, I am one. Originally, I planned on taking steps in order to improve the college experience for athletes and to bring about changes which I think are necessary. However, the project has more or less become a guide for underclassmen and potential student athletes as they begin their journey.

Furman Campus

I plan to accomplish my goals through…

  • Blog posts
  • A video documentary
  • An opinion pieces to newspapers
  • Social media (Twitter and Facebook)
  • And on-campus flyers

Hopefully, this blog and the media within will become a staple of information for my target audience to visit when they need information or advice about being a student athlete at Furman University.

About the Author

I am Dakota Derrick and I am a junior communication studies major at Furman University. I am also quarterback of the football team. Recently, I have taken several classes on the basics of digital media; and how to connect to the larger conversation with these tools. I am really excited to use these newfound skills and to continue to learn ways in which to better myself, my school, and the overall perception of NCAA athletes. Over the coming weeks, I will be blogging about an advocacy project for student athletes at Furman.