Ryerson athletes have such an appallingly low graduation rate that the school’s administration will now assign tutors for failing students.

Last year, the Ryersonian reported that graduation rates among students who had played at least one game for Ryerson teams ranged from 11 per cent on the men’s hockey team to 38 per cent on women’s basketball. The average graduation rate at Ryerson was 75.5 per cent. “The last couple of years we were focused mainly on the basketball teams,” said John Thorpe, coordinator of Learning Support Services.

“This year we’re trying to include athletes in general, to involve more teams.” Last year, Thorpe said, 11 or 12 athletes took advantage of Learning Support Services.

“For the last couple of years we’ve tried to link up with (Learning Support Services) to identify some key elements that players really needed to succeed academically,” said Chuck Mathies, assistant director of inter-university sports.

“I’ve identified every returning student on academic probation to put on my hit list,” Mathies said. “We want to try to identify what their problems are and how we can help.”

Mathies did not say how many students would be involved in the program. “It is just getting rolling now,” he said. “I can only think there will be positive results for the athletes when it gets under way.”

Attendance at the sessions will not be enforced, Mathies said.

“If it’s only one intervention, one appointment, hopefully the kid does okay,” Mathies said.

Adam Segal, learning skills counsellor at the Learning Support office, has been assigned to assist the athletes.

“I don’t imagine I’m going to face anything very different,” he said.

“We have students here with jobs, or students that have kids, and these things place the same time pressures and dificulties that sports does.”

Segal said the basic structure of the learning services program will not change for athletes.

“We’re taking what is already in place and affiliating it with the athletic program,” he said.

As yet, no Ryerson athletes have received study counselling sessions, though several are scheduled, Segal said. Thorpe identified three basic difficulties encountered by student athletes. One, the time taken up by practices and games, especially road trips. Two, the amount of physical and mental effort athletes put into their training. Three, the goals of playing pro or semi-pro can reduce in their mind the importance of academics.

“The upside for athletes is a lot of them are very disciplined people,” Thorpe said. “Probably for most of them there isn’t a dilemma here. They want to be successful in sports and in academics.”

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