After having read the Athletic Steering Committee reports of December 2012, we are writing with some concerns about the place and impact of athletics on academic and university culture.
We appreciate the care and work that went into the Steering Committee’s evaluation and overview of athletics at Colgate, and we appreciate the role of athletic programs at Colgate as part of Colgate’s tradition as a liberal arts college with a strong commitment to interscholastic athletics.
We would like to call attention to a fundamental concern we have about the priorities of Colgate academic life and its relationship to athletics. From our experience as teachers at Colgate over many years, we believe that the time commitment among Colgate student athletes has reached a place of excess that has resulted in an encroachment on academic life in ways that are at odds with the fundamental mission of education at Colgate.
It is clear that interscholastic athletic teams are no longer seasonal activities. Athletes are conscripted into yearlong programs of team-life, training and competition. Teams have become sub-cultures on campus; teams often train two and three times a day, six days a week for the entire academic year. Practice-time is supposed to be limited to 20 hours a week but students admit that they are often putting in 40 hours or more per week, especially with game days and with travel.
We believe that we have created two cultures on our campus. One in four men and women on our campus is a varsity athlete. Because of the immense demands on them, athletes are often isolated. They are cut off from mainstream campus culture and academic life—which often hits its peak in the late afternoons and evenings.
Some student athletes continue to note that if they attend a lecture or an evening class, it will jeopardize their position on the team and possibly their scholarships. These students often report that some coaches are aggressive in their demands concerning the consequences of missing a practice, a workout, a meeting, etc. It seems clear from these continual situations that coaches often dictate an inordinate portion of the student-athletes' daily, weekly, and yearly schedules.
Over the years, a segment of our athletes continue to inform members of the faculty that they cannot participate in afternoon lectures, events, symposia, and evening classes. They note that some coaches discourage or forbid them to go on off-campus study groups and urge them not to take courses that meet in the late afternoons, limiting the choices for upper level seminars. In addition early morning training leaves many athletes exhausted by mid-afternoon. It’s not surprising that a number of seniors note that four years of athletics comes at a cost to personal growth and academic progress.
We do extraordinary things at our universities in the United States., and we are proud and grateful for those exceptional aspects of our system of higher education. We also admire and respect the dedication and energy of our coaches; they do superb work. And we admire and respect our student athletes, who are highly disciplined and multi-talented. Our concerns are not intended to detract from anyone’s achievements, but to address the pressing issue of academic priorities at Colgate.
We believe that there has to be a rebalancing of the relationship between sports culture and academic life at Colgate. It is time for some alteration in the relationship between student commitment to sports and student commitment to academic life.
We can all agree that Colgate, like the rest of the colleges and universities in the United States, was founded for one purpose—the higher education of its students. Colgate’s reason for being is the advancement of intellectual work and academic life. The other layers that Colgate and other U.S. universities have accrued remain add-ons, tertiary dimensions to the core of the institution’s function and nature.
We request that a process be initiated either in the form of an ad hoc committee or by allowing faculty to be part of a process in which these problems and issues are evaluated and assessed for the purpose of drawing new regulations concerning the relationship between academic life and extra-curricular athletic programs.
signed by 63 tenured faculty to date 10/8/13:
Anthony Aveni, Russell B. Colgate Professor of Astronomy and Anthropology
Rich April, Dunham Beldon Jr. Professor of Geology
Peter Balakian, Donald M. and Constance H. Rebar Professor of the
Humanities in the Department of English
Jennifer Brice, Associate Professor of English
Glenn Cashman, Associate Professor of Music
Susan P. Cerasano, Edgar B. Fairchild Professor of English
Marietta Cheng, Professor of Music
Maudemarie Clark, George Carleton, Jr. Professor of Philosophy
Michael Coyle, Professor of English
John Crespi, Henry R. Luce Associate Professor of Chinese
Lesleigh Cushing, Associate Professor of Religion, Chair Jewish Studies
Ray Douglas, Professor of History, Chair
Faye Dudden, Professor of History
Robert Garland, Roy D. and Margaret B. Wooster Professor of the Classics
Adrian Giurgea, Professor of English, Director of Theater
DeWitt Godfrey, Associate Professor of Art and Art History
Jocseyln Godwin, Professor of Music, Chair
Michael Haines, Banfi Vintners Professor of Economics
Anita Johnson, Associate Professor of Spanish
Michael Johnston, Charles A. Dana Professor of Political Science
Noor Khan, Associate Professor of History
Marjorie D. Kellog, Associate Professor of Theater
Steven Kepnes, Professor of World Religions and Jewish Studies, Director of
Chapel House and the Fund for the Study of World
Religions, Chair Department of Religion
Jordon Kerber, Professor of Anthropology and Native American Studies
Jyoti Khanna, Professor of Economics
Laura Klugerz, Professor of Music and Africana & Latin American Studies
John Knecht, Russell Colgate Distinguished Professor of Art and Art History
Deborah J. Knuth Klenk, Professor of English
Karen Harpp, Associate Professor of Geology
Evelyn Hart, Professor of Mathematics
Michael Hayes, Professor of Political Science
Graham Hodges, George Dorland Langdon Jr. Professor of History and
Africana & Latin American Studies
Carolyn Hsu, Associate Professor of Sociology
Paul Lopes, Associate Professor of Anthropology
Clarice Martin, Jean Picker Professor of Philosophy and Religion
David McCabe, Professor of Philosophy
Ulrich Meyer, Associate Professor of Philosophy
Mary Moran, Professor of Anthropology
Brian Moore, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Professor of History and
Africana & Latin American Studies
Nina Moore, Associate Professor of Political Science
John Naughton, Harrington and Shirley Drake Professor of the Humanities in
Kezia Page, Associate Professor of English
John D. Palmer, Associate Professor of Educational Studies
Beth Parks, Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy, Chair
Paul Pinet, Professor of Geology and Environmental Studies
Fernando Plata, Professor of Spanish
Barbara Regenspan, Associate Professor of Educational Studies
Nancy Reis, Professor of Anthropology
Patrick Riley, Associate Professor of French
Andrew Rotter, Charles A. Dana Professor of History
Bruce Rutherford, Associate Professor of Political Science
Rebecca Shiner, Professor of Psychology
Harvey Sindima, Professor of Philosophy and Religion, Presidential Professor
Connie Soja, Professor of Geology
Lynette Stevenson, Associate Professor of Art and Art History
April Sweeney, Associate Professor of Theater, Department of English
Alan Swensen, Professor of German
Linn Underhill, Associate Professor of Art and Art History
Chris Vecsey, Harry Emerson Fosdick Professor of the Humanities and
Native American Studies and Religion
Joe Wagner, Professor of Political Science
Don Waldman, Richard M. Kessler Professor of Economic Studies
Sarah Wider, Professor of English
Faculty -- tenured or untenured -- may sign this letter at any time; please contact Peter Balakian by email to do so.