Pitzer College Council Supports Academic Credit for Athletes

Pitzer College’s College Council voted Nov. 20 to grant academic credit to student athletes. Until the vote, Pitzer was the only Claremont College that did not give academic credit for participation in varsity sports.

After several rounds of faculty meetings and preliminary voting, the resolution was passed by the council, which consists of faculty members, staff members and members of the Pitzer Student Senate. According to the resolution, athletes would receive a quarter credit each year. 

Carly Nathan PZ ’15, who used to play for the Pomona-Pitzer women's soccer team, began drafting the resolution last fall. Paul Messana PZ ’17 and Lindsey Burkart-Lima PZ ’16 later joined Nathan to compile data about Pitzer athletes. They found that Pitzer students were underrepresented on P-P sports teams and also discovered a high quit rate among Pitzer athletes throughout their athletic careers.

“There comes a point when the cost [of participating on a P-P team] outweighs the benefits,” Burkart-Lima said while proposing the resolution to College Council.

In their presentation to the College Council, Burkart-Lima, Messana and Nathan pointed out how athletes dedicate close to 40 hours per week to their teams with little recognition from the Pitzer community. They said that by giving academic credit for participating in Sagehen athletics, Pitzer would be symbolically supporting its athletes’ interests and self-expression.

Pitzer and Pomona came together as Sagehens in 1970 as a Southern California Intercollegiate Conference Division III program. Most colleges under the SCIAC umbrella have a crediting system for their athletes. For example, Pomona grants varsity athletes a quarter credit for each season. However, all quarter-credit courses including Physical Education classes have a cumulative course credit limit. When a student has taken eight of any quarter-credit classes, they will stop receiving credit for further classes even though they will show on transcripts.

“It’s not fair that being a part of the same team, Pomona kids get the credit while Pitzer kids don’t,” Ben Rigby PZ ’17 said. Rigby runs on the P-P cross country team and was glad to hear that he will one day get credit for the hard work he puts into representing Pitzer through sports.

Passing the legislation was the first step in a potentially long process of implementation. There is not an exact timeline, and student athletes will not receive academic credit until at least next year. However, students are hopeful that they will soon receive the same recognition from Pitzer that their teammates do from the Pomona College community.

“Apart from the much larger issue of undervalued and underrepresented Pitzer student-athletes, receiving academic credit is a step in the right direction,” Messana said. “Looking forward, achievements like these will continue to open up a critical dialogue among Pitzer’s administration and lead a real culture change on campus.”

Editor's note: Paul Messana is a staff photographer for TSL.