Athletes need to study: that’s the cold, hard truth

Students at Ryerson's study hall. (Michael Norton)

Students hard at work at Ryerson’s study hall. (Michael Norton)

Devisha Binns isn’t the biggest fan of Ryerson Rams’ study hall.

The first-year undeclared arts student would much prefer going home instead of logging more hours at the Mattamy Athletic Centre (MAC), where she already spends her time practicing and playing as a member of Ryerson’s women’s basketball team. Binns admits, though, that the acquired additional time at the MAC is a blessing in disguise.

Located on the MAC’s third floor along with the arena, study hall is a small classroom with space for about 20 students. All first-year student athletes competing for the Rams in “CIS Sports” (for Ryerson, these sports are basketball, hockey, soccer and volleyball) must attend four hours of study hall each week. Returning student athletes with a GPA of 2.67 or lower in the previous school year have to attend two hours of study hall per week.

ryerson-study-hall“I wouldn’t do as much work at home as I do at study hall,” Binns said.

“Usually you can get a head start in classes if you want to”

Study hall is open for all student athletes from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., but students can only complete their required hours when the hall is being monitored, which happens at regular time slots from Monday to Thursday. If student athletes fall behind in their hours, they are deemed ineligible to play until they make up the time.

Keeping students on the right academic and athletic track has been a goal of Ivan Joseph’s since he took over as Ryerson’s director of athletics in 2008. He advocated for the creation of study hall and continues to lobby for high academic standards among student-athletes.

“The goal has always been to exceed [the average GPA of] the general student body,” Joseph said. “We want our athletes to raise the profile of the university.”

According to Joseph, the average GPA of the general student body sits at around 2.8, while the average GPA of student athletes is currently at 2.82. Joseph also looks at Ryerson’s number of CIS Academic All-Canadians – student athletes with a GPA of 3.67 or higher – as proof of improved academic performance among student-athletes.

“When I first came here we only had one [CIS Academic All-Canadian],” Joseph said. “Now we’re at a school record of 29.”

According to a spreadsheet on the CIS website, Ryerson produced 93 Academic All-Canadians between the 2008-09 and 2013-14 school years – the most recent year the spreadsheet includes. This number placed Ryerson 45th in CIS over that time frame.

By comparison, Laval University, who placed first, produced 752 Academic All-Canadians in that span.

Joseph said that this ranking speaks more to the number of teams schools have, rather than the academic success of their student-athletes.other-oua-schools-study-hall

“We don’t have the same number of sports that Laval and Western (ranked third in CIS from 2008-2014 with 716 Academic All-Canadians) and Waterloo (fifth, 622) have,” Joseph said, adding that some schools have upwards of 40 CIS-designated sports.

“For the number of student athletes that we have, we’re actually quite good,” Joseph said.

“[Study hall] has been paying dividends, and we have reaped the rewards.”

Just this summer, the mandatory study hall time for first-year student athletes was raised from two hours per week to four. While the rewards of this change can’t be determined just yet, Joseph said the adjustment shows that student athletes are caring more about their marks.

“It was one of the recommendations that came from the students,” Joseph said of the increased mandatory hours. While Joseph couldn’t estimate the number of student athletes who suggested the change, he said “it was enough for us to pay attention.”

Binns fell behind in her study hall hours earlier this year, but was able to catch up. While she has not found the transition to university as hard as she expected it to be, she’s glad that study hall is there to help her along the way.

“I wouldn’t make [the room temperature] as cold,” said Binns, who prefers to study on one of the desks overlooking the basketball court in the MAC. “But I wouldn’t change anything. It’s good, it’s chill.”


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