By Jada Butler, Josh Tolentino
Co-Editor-In-Chief, Staff Writer
Student athletes left their classes en masse halfway through the period on Wednesday, Oct. 3, to attend a mandatory emergency meeting to discuss the effects of the “One LIU” athletic department merger that was announced via email by President Kimberly Cline. The meeting cut through two morning classes between 10:30 and 11 a.m., disrupting lesson plans and lectures by professors all over campus.
“I may, perhaps, be a little biased, but it would seem that taking students out of a class to address this, rather than addressing it during common hour, regularly scheduled practice, or even a Friday (thus holding off the overall announcement by two days) would have been less disruptive to the academic aspect of the campus,” said Professor Michele Dornisch, in an email to faculty later that day. “I know this is but a minor aspect of what is the focus of college campuses, but yet, I would personally have had a much better day if more of my students would have come to class and fewer of my students would have been obsessing about their future as an athlete during my course,” she continued.
Several other professors voiced concerns for their students and lamented the disruption of their classes.
“My student athletes have been heartbroken, and I have had to stop teaching in order to talk to them and listen to their sorrows,” Dr. Joan Digby, English professor of 50 years and director of the Honors College, said in an email to faculty. “We are going to lose a great number of high-end students as a result of this inconceivable decision,” she wrote.
Some student-athletes faced backlash from leaving class. One student, who wishes not to be named for fear of jeopardizing their position on their team, said a professor threatened to fail them and their fellow student-athlete classmates if they left class to attend the meeting. They left regardless.
The last minute announcements were not only happening to students; coaches, too, were only informed the day of.
“[The administration] literally told our coaches 10 minutes before they were supposed to tell all the athletes,” said Jillian Lomanto, a junior education major and member of the women’s lacrosse team. “We didn’t go to our 11 o’clock [classes]. They didn’t have any answers for us whatsoever. I don’t know where I’m going next fall. I don’t know if I’m going to play next fall. It’s crazy,” she continued.
As registration for classes in the spring 2019 semester approaches, athletes are struggling to figure out what they should do, both in their academic and athletic careers. In a letter to The Pioneer, President Cline wrote that, “the University is putting students first by honoring all current scholarships to student-athletes through their graduation. We take the ‘student’ in ‘student-athlete’ very seriously, and we will work one-on-one to ensure all student-athletes graduate on-time, with a LIU diploma.”
“Setting aside all else, it would seem that anyone would have realized the social and emotional, if not academic, repercussions of the One LIU email on athletes,” Dornisch said. “The meeting could then have been scheduled at a more opportune time, and students could have been given the chance to process the information and then have a subsequent question/answer session with those who made the decision to move to Division I athletics.”
Teams have been meeting throughout the week to discuss the players’ next steps in the coming year, though things remain unclear.