By Kate Irwin
Elaine Marzluff does more for campus than teach chemistry — she also now works as the faculty athletics representative (FAR). Her role is to serve both academic and athletic interests by working closely with student athletes, coaches and faculty.
There are two components of the role of the FAR. The first is to serve as the chair of the Physical Education Committee. On this committee, she and other committee members work with National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) legislation and think about policies, procedures and rules for the Midwest Conference.
In addition to Marzluff, members of the committee include Associate Athletic Director Erin Hurley, a male and female student athlete, Director of Athletics Andy Hamilton, and another faculty member for voting purposes.
Together, the Physical Education Committee examines sports schedules and policies that pertain to the influence of athletics on a student’s academics, such as missing classes for sporting events. Marzluff and the Physical Education Committee work to find a balance between academics and athletics.
“How do we minimize [a student missing class] but still allow the athletes to have their appropriate experience that we want them to have?” Marzluff presented as a question that the Physical Education Committee works to resolve.
Marzluff also serves on committees for the Midwest Conference and for the NCAA. For both groups, she discusses legislative business and listens to faculty and students to decide Grinnell’s institutional position in regard to athletics.
Marzluff’s second role as the FAR is to collaborate with student athletes, coaches and faculty to avoid and resolve conflicts. This facilitation is integral to student athletes’ college experience. Her job ensures that dissensions stemming from conflict between academics and sports are resolved in a manner that ensures both parties come to a fair resolution.
“For most students I should hopefully be in the background. But sometimes coaches will refer students to me, particularly if they’re having a struggle in a class. I also work with faculty. If they feel like they’re having an issue with an athletic schedule or student athlete, they might call me,” Marzluff said.
Recent student surveys have revealed that some students feel they needed to hide the fact they are an athlete because they feel like that could influence how their professor perceives them. This feeling is something that Marzluff is working to eliminate.
“To me that’s very troubling,” Marzluff said. “That any student athlete would feel the need to hide their identity as an athlete from their faculty member.”
Another role of the FAR is to support the development of relations between faculty members and sports teams through the Faculty Athletic Mentoring Program. Each sports team is assigned a faculty member to serve as a resource for students and to support the team at competitions.
This program not only supports students in their athletics, but also shows faculty what student athlete life is really like for Grinnell students. Serving as a mentor allows a faculty member to see the dedication and time that students are putting into their sport and then develop a clearer understanding of what practices and competitions are like.
“We want to minimize the tension, if there is a tension, between those [groups],” Marzluff said.
Justin Thomas is currently the FAR for Grinnell, but Marzluff is covering for Thomas while he is abroad for the Grinnell-in-London program. Marzluff does have previous experience with this role, as she served as the FAR for Grinnell before Thomas took this position.
Marzluff’s interest in the FAR position stems from her love of athletics.
“I’ve been a long-time supporter of athletics, I go to a lot of athletic events, and when they had an opening I came in,” Marzluff said.
Although Marzluff supports all Grinnell athletics, her favorite sports to watch here are basketball, baseball and swimming.
“Those are probably my favorite sports, but I try to get out to see contests for all sports.”