Student athletes express hopes and concerns for Athletic Department as search for full time Athletic Director begins

The search for a new Lawrence Athletic Director is ongoing after Kim Tatro, former Athletic Director, stepped down from her role and moved to a position where she’s managing funds that are part of the Strategic Investment Initiative for the Athletics Department. This change was announced in an email sent to Lawrence students, faculty and staff on Monday, Feb. 28, from Chrystin Abaray, Chief of Staff to President Laurie Carter.  

Women’s Volleyball Coach, Senior Woman Administrator and Associate Director of Athletics Kim Falkenhagen has stepped in as Interim Athletic Director.  

A search committee made up of staff, students and faculty is looking for a full-time replacement, and Abaray will be chairing this committee as she supervises the Athletic Director. Abaray added that the search committee is looking for an athletic director who is visible in the community, cares about students, and has strong leadership skills.  

Student athletes expressed a variety of concerns in the Athletic Department that they are hoping will be addressed once a full-time Athletic Director is hired.  

According to junior Marifé Entenza-Sierra, a member of the Women’s Volleyball Team, rules around COVID-19 were inconsistent, and felt like the protocols changed too much, being strict one week and relaxed another week. According to her, this caused confusion, which led to athletes who didn’t want to wear masks feeling like they could get away with not doing it.  

“There was an inconsistency in protocols.” said Entenza-Sierra. “Therefore, athletes feel they can do whatever they want and get away with it.”  

One anonymous student athlete, referred to in this story as C, agreed with this sentiment and mentioned that rapid testing was often done incorrectly by not putting the nose swab all the way in, which they believe led to far more false negatives than normal when taking rapid tests. C felt that it was unfair to waste 45 minutes of their time in the morning if the test wasn’t even going to be done correctly. 

Both Entenza-Sierra and C feel that Lawrence staff have a responsibility to model good behavior for students by wearing masks and properly conducting tests, and that some staff members were inconsistent in modeling that behavior.  

Both athletes as well as a second anonymous student athlete, referred to in this story as B, expressed a desire for better communication in the Athletic Department when it comes to policies as well as concerns. 

C stated that they feel like a lot of Athletic Department staff don’t understand how mentally and physically draining it is to be an athlete and a student at the same time, pointing out that they often skipped meals in order to get to rapid testing and then practice on time. C also mentioned the fact that they don’t get paid, and don’t have much time to work on campus while completing schoolwork. 

Entenza-Sierra expressed a desire for more therapists specifically geared towards athletes, and feels that mental health is not being prioritized in the Strategic Investment Initiative. C also expressed a desire for better sexual assault prevention in the department.  

Abaray stated that she was unaware of the concerns students had about COVID-19 but acknowledged that communication strategies between students and staff can always be improved. She also expressed a desire to providing student athletes with the resources they need. Abaray encouraged students to come to her if they have concerns and need someone to talk to. 

“I am always available and openly welcome any conversations,” said Abaray.