When issues arise for athletes on campus, they can turn to an organization called the Student-Athletes Advisory Committee (SAAC).
The SAAC is made up of two student-athlete representatives per sports team and a staff coordinator.
Junior Kimberlee Giggey, from the women’s swimming and diving team, is the SAAC vice president and has been on the committee for three years.
“Part of our job is also to plan community service and to plan events for the school. But we’re not afraid to bring issues that are kind of touchy topics,” Giggey said. “We try to push to have the representatives go back to their teams and be able to tell them, ‘my job is to speak for you guys so if you have an issues I want you to be comfortable enough to come up to me.’ ”
Issues can be brought up to SAAC representatives and handled with or without anonymity, based on the athlete’s choice.
According to the SAAC board meeting minutes from Dec. 3, 2018 obtained by the Spartan Daily, one topic brought up in the meeting was athletes’ mental health.
“[Mountain West] is collaborating on ideas to make mental health care more accessible to student athletes. Potential to bring a counselor specifically for student athletes,” according to the meeting notes.
The notes also mentioned that asking for funding for a mental health counselor is the “#1 priority for AD (athletics director).”
“One person that we are typically are always communicating with is Jen Jurgensen,” Giggey said. “And she’s always there in the meetings. Also Eileen Daily, she deals with Title IX issues.”
Jurgensen, SJSU Athletics and SAAC coordinator, has been proud of this academic year’s advocacy among athletes.
“To be honest, this is the first year people have started to bring things to SAAC,” said Jurgensen. “Before, it was mostly about events and community service, and I think people are a lot more empowered this year, which I love.”
According to Jurgensen, most of the issues that have been brought up to the SAAC this year are now in the process of being addressed.
“Our conversations about that started in December, so it’s very new,” said Jurgensen.
More recently, Giggey said the SAAC has been helping a team that is having issues feeling heard by their coach.
“[Coaches are] pulling them from some tournaments that are considered annual tournaments that the coaches are saying [the athletes] shouldn’t be a part of,” Giggey said.
“Different misconduct stuff as far as, like, there’s no sexual misconduct, it’s more just of [the coach] being more sexist towards them . . . So that’s just been something more recent that not a lot of people get to see or know about SAAC.”
Giggey declined to comment which sports teams were experiencing misconduct or sexism.
Additionally, because of the SAAC advocacy, the athletics department is now working on getting a full-time mental health counselor for student-athletes.
“Right now, our students are going in with the general population of students [for counseling] which is great,” Jurgensen said. “But then we’re taking away times from other people too.”
Junior Julia Golbeck, beach volleyball player and SAAC president, shares the same sentiment.
“This year specifically has really developed our voice as student-athletes,” Golbeck said. “I think before that no one really knew the route to speak up about issues. Everyone was kind of like, ‘Oh, I’ll do it on my own.’”
SAAC meetings are open to all athletes, including non-SAAC members, and meetings are monthly on Monday nights.
“It gets better every year,” Golbeck said.