Illiterate college students the result of disabilities

Athletes are often portrayed as academically inept. Television shows present viewers with the star quarterback who has astounding athletic skills and a ‘C’ average, which may actually be lower in reality. There are common speculations, such as student athletes don’t attend their classes and teachers manipulate their grades throughout their athletic careers.

Recent developments have led some people to deem such stereotypes accurate.

Earlier this year, the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Committee on Infractions penalized the Florida State University athletic department for academic cheating. According to a report by, a few of the university’s coaches stand to lose wins and a large number of athletes are facing suspensions.

The most injurious of these suspensions is to the university’s football program, which is regularly ranked. According to the same report, football coach Bobby Bowden will have 14 of his wins wiped away because they took place in the midst of the cheating.

The embarrassment does not stop there. A separate Rivals article reported that some of the athletes who cheated had a second-grade reading level. And Brenda Monk, the tutor who reported that the students had such a low reading level, was accused of typing, editing and writing their papers. She was hired to help athletes who struggled in an academic setting, and there is no excuse for her actions.

A fact like that doesn’t just bring about questions about cheating. It makes someone wonder how the players with such learning disabilities were accepted to a university.

If these were average students not on full-ride scholarships for the school’s beloved athletic program, there would not be an issue. If they had learning disabilities, they deserved help. However, in no way did they need someone to write entire papers for them, especially not a specialist like their tutor.

According to, a Web site specializing in Attention Deficit Disorder, one of the greatest myths regarding the disorder is that teachers can help students with ADD more than medications like Ritalin.

I’m no expert on learning or physical disabilities, but I tend to believe experts who are. If I had a learning disability and a doctor told me to take Ritalin, I would at least attempt to take it. Ritalin does have some pretty serious side effects that can cause discomfort, drowsiness and depression in severe cases. But some doctors have reported that without treatment, learning disabilities can cause lifelong effects, like literacy problems.

However, in order to identify learning disabilities as the cause, one would have to investigate each player’s medical history. It could be that many of them have taken drugs like Ritalin and it simply didn’t not work for them.

Therefore, the most logical cause rests in education in general. A 2005 report by The Washington Post outlined the status of literacy amongst college graduates and graduate students. The results weren’t pretty and it showed that a mere 41 percent of graduate students were “proficient” in literature and reading in general. Even worse, only 31 percent of college students were classified as “proficient.”

The blame cannot be placed on professors alone. They are not responsible for a student’s integrity. Some students would say their teachers are responsible for teaching them everything they learn in school. If that were the case, academia might as well eliminate books altogether. Books are read in order to apply them to what is being learned in classes.

It could be said, then, that the mishap at Florida State is more than an issue at that specific school. U.S. college students in general are failing in the area of literacy. It has been magnified due to the mistakes made at Florida State, but that does not mean it only applies to athletes. Although many of those athletes read at a shockingly low level, they are also affected by learning disabilities. Before the critics take this story and run to Controverysville, the issue at hand must be investigated and applied to the fact that there are 30 million college graduates nationwide struggling with illiteracy.

Wyatt Kanyer is a sophomore news-editorial journalism major from Yakima, Wash.