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In startling discovery, athletes get list of easy classes

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And in other news, water is wet, the sky is blue, and the "new" White Plaza layout looks like a two year old took pencil to design paper.

In what is supposed to be a earth-shattering revelation, writers from California Watch, The Stanford Daily, and I assume one of the Communication classes at Stanford published a story about the "little-known" list of classes that were considered easy by the athletic department.  The story got picked up by the SF Chronicle, and from there the story kind of snowballed.

The truth of the matter is, if you even knew one athlete at Stanford and had an extended conversation with them at the beginning of any academic quarter about what classes you and they should take, you knew about the list.  In fact, if you were smart, you either got a copy of the list or just asked for which one they had heard was the easiest on the list.  This "news" is anything but new for most Stanford students.

What is bewildering is the administration's response to it.  First, the administration (not the athletic department, mind you) gives the axe to the list.  Then, in a more bewildering move, administrative officials try to justify its existence without knowing how exactly the list was given out.  Take, for instance, Dean Julie's claim that the list was meant only as a starting point for a discussion between adviser and student.  If you're like me, you met your freshman adviser maybe twice before you actually declared your major.  Usually those meetings happened within Fall quarter of your freshman year.  Then, in a direct contradiction to Dean Julie, former assistant athletic director for student services Susan Simoni Burk (a great woman who many athletes knew for many years) told California Watch that usually the list was on a table easily accessible to any student outside the athletic advising office.

Getting rid of the list (at the end of Winter quarter a time when no one is looking to shop for classes), just reeks of some sort of wrongdoing on Stanford's part.  Claiming that it's part of extended conversation between student and advisor, though, is laughable.

In Stanford's defense, though, when you take a look at the list provided to California Watch for Winter Quarter 10-11, you'll see that most of the classes either a) fulfill General Education Requirements (GERs), or b) were so easy that there was little way for anyone, athlete or otherwise, to formulate any sort of comprehensive academic plan over three or four years with just those classes.  For the former case, for example, everyone has to take a math class at Stanford.  Why would you take Math 51 (Introduction to Linear Algebra, an advanced calculus-based introductory class) to fulfill your GER in Math when you've already decided to major in Political Science or Art and can take Math 19 (Calculus) to fulfill the requirement?  That would be stupid, for both an athlete and a non-athlete.

For that second case, if you take a look at the list of classes for that quarter, the page and a half list of classes won't get you anywhere if you plan on graduating.  For starters, major requirements at Stanford require a minimum of 45 units and in some majors up to 120 units.  It's hard to see how one could achieve those thresholds by taking solely those classes on the list.  Second, a lot of those classes are simply introductory classes.  You can't get a Stanford degree by taking a wide swath of intro classes and not going more in-depth in one particular field.

So what do we take from this?  Not much unless you consider the administration creating their own PR nightmare by yanking the list as news.  Like I said before, if you had even one athlete friend while at Stanford, you knew about the list, and chances are, you knew what was on the list already.  In the end, the list doesn't even matter because the academic vigor of Stanford is something far more involved than a list of introductory classes and GERs.  Plus, if people want to believe this is some sort of huge revelation, that's fine -- current students and alums know better.  It's better than if people believe that AXESS caught a virus and erased everyone's transcripts or that Andrew Luck changed his mind and decided to go into the NFL Draft next year.


The infamous "list," via California Watch