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Meet the Monitor

Her brief: ensuring student-athletes' welfare.

Photo: L.A. Cicero

By Christian Torres

Psychology professor Ellen Markman fills a key University role outside her academic duties, and the fact that it's little known doesn't bother her. If Markman's job as faculty athletic representative to the NCAA and the Pacific-10 Conference doesn't make the news, that speaks to the strength of Stanford athletics, its sound relationship with academics, and the lack of a single major NCAA violation in Stanford's history.

“Some faculty I talk to have never heard of or known the position exists. It's not particularly visible, and I guess it's because there aren't that many concerns,” says Markman, surrounded at her desk by a mixture of research papers, athletics forms and a thick NCAA rulebook.

That doesn't leave Markman without work. As stipulated by NCAA regulations, she checks and signs off on student-athlete eligibility, looks at NCAA and Pac-10 proposals and votes on behalf of the University on a hundred pieces of national and conference legislation each year.

“Overall, though, the position is about monitoring the integrity of the system, making sure that athletes are treated as students and ensuring student-athlete welfare,” she says.

Markman works closely with athletics director Bob Bowlsby and other department officials, as well as faculty and staff, to ensure that Stanford's high standards are maintained in the face of policy changes, transitions among coaches and athletes and the pressures of particular sports. She says the job has exposed her to a “whole new world.” From the athletics administrators to the coaches, Markman notes, there's passion and dedication and a culture of “fabulous leadership and values that share quite a bit with the rest of the University.

“It takes a lot of work to preserve such a culture; it requires communication, hard work, dedication and more,” the psychology professor adds. “It's not trivial.”

Currently, Markman is involved in Stanford's NCAA recertification, required every 10 years. The process comprises a self-study—entailing various University subcommittees, reports and surveys—and an external review by college athletic directors, fellow faculty athletic representatives and others. Markman served on a committee looking at compliance, as well as on the self-study steering committee. She will meet with the external review group later this fall.

While the project thus far has yielded the expected high marks for Stanford athletics, concerns have surfaced regarding athletes' ability to participate in research, study-abroad programs and certain classes that conflict with practice schedules. Markman says problems like these are about trade-offs, not just time. No one can do everything there is to do at Stanford, but steps have been taken to improve schedule flexibility—rotating practice times, improving lighting for nighttime practices and having faculty rework class schedules—and more can be done.

Markman knew little about sports before she became faculty athletic representative; the most attention she'd paid was to women's basketball. Since then, she has taken the time to go to the occasional game or match and found good reason to cheer for the Cardinal. “These students excel to an unbelievable level; their records both in their sports and in their academics are phenomenal,” Markman says. “Seeing that has made me a fan.”


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