Monday, November 11, 2013

In Support of Colgate Athletics

by Chad Sparber
Associate Professor of Economics

I declined to sign the “Open Letter on Athletics at Colgate.” Simply put, I disagree with much of its content, and I am more inclined to recognize the positive role that coaches, staff, and student athletes play within the Colgate community.
First, I believe that Colgate maintains a competitive advantage in attracting academically-gifted students who want to play Division-I athletics at an institution dedicated to undergraduate education. This is an extremely talented demographic group otherwise underserved by the higher education market. Aside from the service academies, US News ranks Colgate as the second best liberal arts university with Division-I athletics. I appreciate the students we attract, and do not want to lose them.
Second, I have been thoroughly impressed with our athletes’ performance in the classroom. I have led student athletes on study groups and written them letters of recommendation for law school and PhD programs. I have seen our athletes develop honors theses, publish in peer-reviewed academic journals, and finish at or near the top of their courses and graduating classes. Nearly half (49%) of our student athletes earned a GPA above 3.25 in Spring 2013, and Colgate’s NCAA graduation success rate was 98% in 2011-12 and 2012-13, fourth best in the country. Though some of this information is only anecdotal, it all suggests evidence against the claim 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” or that our athletes are somehow “isolated” and “cut off from… academic life.”
Third, I am not sure what the open letter means when it argues that athletes are “cut off from mainstream campus culture,” but I do know that the comment has an uncomfortably intolerant tone, and comes seemingly close to advocating some sort of assimilation to a proper cultural behavior. I prefer to celebrate athletics as a part of campus culture. I enjoy taking my young daughters to athletic events, in part, because I see our student athletes as positive role models – disciplined individuals dedicated to competing to their best ability on “the field” and in the classroom. I value the opportunity to expose my children to that aspect of college life.
None of this is to say that conflicts between academic and athletic commitments never occur. I recall a case several years ago in which athletes complained loudly about a coach who had imposed enormous burdens on their time. That coach’s tenure at Colgate was rightfully brief. Since then, Colgate has revamped its liaison system, giving faculty members a better outlet for registering complaints with coaches. Moreover, it provides anonymity to students wishing to raise concerns without fear of retribution.
In general, I have found most of our coaches and student athletes to be proactive in managing their schedules and resolving conflicts. I would add that such conflicts occur with other extra-curricular activities that I am similarly hesitant to discourage, such as the debate team, immersive learning projects, or job interviews. I believe that Colgate athletics are a positive force in the development of our students, and I applaud their contributions to our community.

Open Letter from The Colgate Committee on Athletics

To the Colgate Community,

Colgate University has had a long history of being a top-tier academic institution, with a demanding liberal arts education, and also competing at the upper echelons of collegiate athletics. This striving for excellence both in the classroom and on the playing field of Division I athletics is one of the unique features of our institution.  Certainly, the pressures of academic and athletic excellence can lead to some conflicts, but the Colgate community has a history of working together to try to help all students achieve their full potential.  As part of our strategic planning process undertaken over the last two years, a review of Colgate’s intercollegiate sports reaffirmed that Division I athletics was an important part of who we are as an institution, but also noted several areas that needed additional study, including times when academic and athletic pressures conflict.

The Committee on Athletics, a subcommittee of the Academic Affairs Board with representatives elected from across the academic divisions, serves as both an advisory board to the Athletics Division and to review and develop policy pertaining to athletics at Colgate. This Committee has been charged by the administration to review several aspects of the student-athlete experience.  As part of this process, we are currently examining a broad range of data about scheduling, performance, etc. and will seek input from Colgate students, academic faculty, and athletic faculty.  We look forward to working with each of these groups to consider how we can best continue to support the mission of this institution.  

The Colgate Committee on Athletics

Jason Meyers, Associate Professor of Biology
Chair of the Committee on Athletics

Janel Benson, Assistant Professor of Sociology

Vicky Chun '91, MA '94, Director of Physical Education, Recreation and Athletics/Associate Professor

Ann-Marie Guglieri, Senior Associate Director of Athletics

Jason Kawall, Associate Professor of Philosophy and Environmental Studies

Kenneth Segall, Associate Professor of Physics

Trish St. Leger, Associate Provost

Ex officio members:

Ryan Baker, Head Coach, Volleyball

Ken Belanger, Raab Family Chair and Professor of Biology
Faculty Athletics Representative to the NCAA

Douglas Johnson, Associate Professor of Psychology
Patriot League Policy Representative

Sunday, November 3, 2013

“ ... For in that sleep of death what dreams may come”

by April Sweeney
Associate Professor of Theater, Department of English

In regards to the updated Strategic Plan I would like to voice my observations, comments and a few questions.  Firstly, I would like to say that I appreciate and understand the hard work that went into the process of creating such a document from everyone who was asked to be involved.  It is hard work.  It is also incredibly important, I believe, that the faculty have input in developing and ensuring the vision and the path of the University.  It goes without saying that we are all dedicated and passionate educators, scholars, and artists who care deeply about the quality of the education that we stand behind.  I also understand the Strategic Plan as a framing document for how Colgate will face important challenges and “guide the school for years." In light of this statement, I find the document problematic.  Colgate is striving to be one of the “world’s most vibrant liberal arts institutions” it is “committed to fostering a creative and expansive learning community dedicated to preparing individuals who can think for themselves."  The University is “committed to the belief that learning takes place in many settings” and under increasing scrutiny of the liberal arts, Colgate “remains committed to our vision of educating the whole person-intellectually, morally, and physically both at home and in the interconnected world."

Therein lies the rub.  

It seems to me we are missing something and I think that Plato and Aristotle might agree: the fine and performing arts.  They are part of the liberal arts.  They are part of the liberal arts project.  If we are interested in our students being “unafraid to ask important questions, prepared for a life of civic engagement, social responsibility, and meaningful contributions to their communities and society” you cannot leave out the Arts, the fine and performing arts.  You also cannot think of it as only a tool “for success in recruiting and retaining diverse students and faculty” and as an object that is “crucial to the cultural vibrancy of our community."  It is that and much more.  The fine and performing arts include disciplines that are vital to the construction of knowledge.  The disciplines do not stand alone locked in a room; they are alive and integral to educating the whole person.  It is curriculum -- not extracurricular.  Theater, as one example, is the act of inquiry. It is making. It is constructing, engaging, provoking, and questioning both society and community.  Its history and legacy, which is standing the test of time, is vast and ripe not only in terms of aesthetics, but full of civic engagement, revolution, meaningful contributions, social responsibility, and a deeply rooted connection to the examination of the self.  

The additions regarding the arts in the Strategic Plan, which were to reflect the views expressed at the faculty meeting and forums is a step, yet unsatisfactory.  It is general, I believe it misses the vital connection of the performing arts to our curriculum and mission, and it suggests no institutional memory of the last strategic plan. To be also totally frank and honest, and why not, I found it insulting.  The reasons are for a much longer and wider conversation that I would be happy to have.  However, back to the plan: It states that in 2020 “we will, of course, have further opportunities to enhance Colgate’s position as a leading liberal arts university."  That Colgate will then begin to consider expanding facilities in the performing arts, which I take to mean Colgate will consider having the conversation of the place and importance of the performing arts to its curriculum and mission.  

That is too late.

In thinking about the enduring value of the liberal arts the strategic plan suggests the viability of Colgate’s “form of education” has come under unprecedented scrutiny and that the University will have to make the strongest possible case for the “kind” of liberal arts education it offers.  It seems to me the most important question occurring at this moment is: What “kind” of liberal arts education is Colgate pursing?  This question has not been answered sufficiently by the faculty and administration as a whole.  In fact, I do not know if the conversation has truly begun. Why are we afraid of it? Should we be? 

If the Strategic Plan is to be a framing document or blue print for crafting the campus for “our new century” it is lacking. It has amputated an entire limb from the liberal arts. We will be handicapped as a result.  Do we want to be?  As Laura Skandera Trombley, President of Pitzer College, suggested at the 36th Annual Fulbright conference: “The liberal arts shouldn't need a college president flying around the country defending their honor; they do need all of us to come together to develop a chorus of voices to talk, paint, sing, build, heal and invest in the liberal arts because to continue to devalue and question their relevancy is to question the relevancy and value of knowledge itself.”

Post script:  a few questions, observations, comments regarding the Strategic Plan:

  • Why did the university borrow 12.8 million dollars to complement the $25 million garnered by the fundraising committee to complete the new athletic facility?  I thought that at a faculty meeting last year we were told that the new athletic facility would only happen if all of the funding was raised. Was I misinformed?
  • Why is the CAC called the Center for Arts and Culture? It is obviously a Center for Fine Arts and Culture. I think it is quite dissembling not to name it appropriately.  I think it would be brilliant to build a Center that is more ambitious and would include the performing arts along with a museum for fine art and culture but that is not what is being done.
  • Why is it “unlikely that there will be significant opportunities to mobilize fundraising to help the campus evolve”? This statement is in reference to campus master plan. Surely, if you can raise $25 million dollars for an athletics facility you would be able to raise funding for infrastructure that supports, enhances, and deepens the liberal arts mission of the University.

Framing the Performing Arts

By Glenn Cashman
Associate Professor of Music

I opened the updated “Strategic Framing Document” today with positive thoughts and bountiful good will. My heart began to flutter upon reading that there is a “pressing need to improve and expand our existing facilities in music, theater, and dance.” Hope was quickly replaced by frustration as I read that President Herbst is “being called upon to convene a working group” to determine how our facilities stack up against peers (see below, 2hrs work), to put together statistics regarding “the impact of the performing arts on recruitment, retention, campus culture, and the academic quality of liberal arts institutions.” 
It would be monumentally embarrassing for Colgate if we need a working group to justify the importance of the performing arts in the liberal arts and if we yet again have to make a case for new facilities, especially considering that a performing arts center (PAC) was an unfulfilled part of the previous strategic plan. If this is deemed to be necessary, we might want to consider if in fact we are actually still a liberal arts institution. As one of the original liberal arts in academia going back to medieval times, Music is not a newbie, nor is Theater or Dance. We need first to commit to building a PAC, then form a committee to work out the details. The currently recommended strategy will only sweep the issue under the proverbial carpet for another decade or so. It is not a satisfactory response to a “pressing need.”
While there are many positive aspects exhibited in the current Master Plan, it seems to be fatally unbalanced when one considers the larger picture and the exclusion of a PAC in the facilities plan. A new PAC has been discussed at Colgate for around 25 years. It has been on and off various strategic plans during the various administrations, and there exists a multitude of documents written and compiled over the years on behalf of a new facility. In the meantime, most of our peer institutions have upgraded and/or built new arts facilities.

Connections between experiences in the performing arts and success in other fields are well known and documented. We will have increasing difficulty in attracting the best and brightest students who often are also strongly oriented toward the performing arts, whether or not they major or minor in music, theater or perhaps eventually in dance.

It seems to me that non-academic pursuits/areas have too much influence at our institution and on our campus culture. What better way to restore some balance than by providing useful, attractive performing arts facilities that are a prerequisite for greater integration and expansion of existing programs, a sense of community for the arts, and that will lead to more rewarding activities for the growing number of students who are slated to be relocated “on campus.” 

 [Info below cut & pasted from the various college web pages and lightly edited.]

BOWDOIN: STUDZINSKI RECITAL HALL (2007), with nine practice rooms and a rehearsal room. The 275-seat hall features adjustable acoustics to suit the many different ensembles and soloists that will perform there. GIBSON HALL (1954) houses the main business of the Department of Music and includes rehearsal rooms and practice rooms/teaching studios, the Beckwith Music Library, Electronic Music Labs, faculty offices, a 68-seat classroom/recital hall, and a more intimate seminar room. The Choral Rehearsal room was updated in 1977.

EDWARDS CENTER FOR ART & DANCE (opened August 2013)
The 48,000-square-foot facility on Longfellow Avenue, which borders the campus, will provide a state-of-the-art venue for Bowdoin College students to study dance, painting, photography, sculpture, printmaking, digital media and other arts under the same roof for the first time. 

VISUAL ARTS CENTER (1975) contains offices, classrooms, studios, and exhibition space for the Department of Art, as well as Kresge Auditorium, which seats 300 for lectures, films, and performances.

SWARTHMORE: LANG MUSIC BUILDING (1973) (Music & Dance) contains offices, classrooms, practice rooms, reception area, the Underhill Music & Dance Library, and 420-seat LANG CONCERT HALL. 

THE PEARSON-HALL THEATRE (1991) is the largest performing stage on campus and has a maximum seating capacity of 762. The theater can be divided in two and both parts used simultaneously, with a cinema (285 seats) on one side of a 75-ton movable soundproof wall and full stage area (425 seats) on the other. It also has two configurations, a standard proscenium, as well as a full thrust. Movies, plays, dance recitals, and lectures are typically offered in these spaces.

WELLESLEY: THE JEWETT CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS (1991). The JAY W. LEES COURAGE THEATER replaced the small theater on the 3rd floor of Converse Hall which was dedicated in 1983 . 

The EMMA ECCLES JONES CONSERVATORY (north addition) opened Fall of 2004. THE CONSERVATORY triples the volume of performance space available on the Westminster Campus. 

The heart of the facility is the 285-seat VIEVE GORE CONCERT HALL which serves as an intimate environment for musical performances. 

In addition, the DUMKE STUDENT THEATRE is a 150-seat, black-box theatre with stage and seating that can be arranged in any configuration. 

THE CONSERVATORY also contains a rehearsal and recording studio, a technology lab, and multiple practice rooms. Together, the JEWETT CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS and EMMA ECCLES JONES CONSERVATORY house all campus music and theater classes. 

HAMILTON: SCHAMBACH CENTER (1988) containing the 700-seat WELLIN PERFORMANCE HALL, plus two large rehearsal halls, 15 practice rooms, faculty offices and classrooms. Facilities for music also include a well-equipped studio for electronic music; a music library that contains more than 25,000 records and compact discs; and state-of-the-art listening and video equipment.

THE CAROL WOODHOUSE WELLIN PERFORMANCE HALL is the center of concert life at Hamilton. About twenty student, faculty and professional concerts take place in this 700-seat auditorium every semester (including the Performing Arts at Hamilton series). These concerts draw audiences from the college and surrounding communities. Also, the Masterworks Chorale, the Orchestra, and the Jazz Ensemble rehearse weekly on Wellin's stage.

NEW MUSEUM, THEATER & STUDIO ARTS FACILITY to be completed by July 2014.

BUCKNELL: SIGMUND AND CLAIRE WEIS CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS (1988) is one of the most highly-regarded concert halls in the region. It’s 1,200-seat hall provides a beautiful venue to hear Bucknell ensembles such as the Bands, Choirs, Opera Company, and Orchestra. Professional ensembles of all types, from around the globe, are frequent guests, providing a first-rate cultural component to a Bucknell education while enriching the entire community with their performances. The Weis Center also boasts outstanding rehearsal facilities for many of the Department of Music's student ensembles.

SIGFRIED WEIS MUSIC BUILDING (2000). It houses the department's recital hall, classrooms, music library, practice rooms, student lounges, music faculty studios - in short it provides great facilities for a dedicated group of musicians, allowing students exceptional opportunities to pursue their musical interests.

THE NATALIE DAVIS ROOKE RECITAL HALL is one of the most active spaces on campus. On any given day, one might hear a student recital, a faculty recital, a guest soloist, or a chamber-music recital. The 160-seat hall boasts excellent acoustics — tunable with the touch of a button — as well as recording capabilities, a harpsichord, and a 9' Steinway concert grand piano. In addition, a generous backstage area includes a green room where students, faculty, and guest artists relax and prepare for performances. Students can reserve the recital hall for rehearsals and recitals.

DARTMOUTH: THE HOPKINS CENTER (1962) a venerable complex (that was right from the beginning-GC), designed by the architect who would later design Lincoln Center in Manhattan. Within the Hopkins Center are Faulkner Recital Hall, Spaulding Auditorium, Warner Bentley Theater, The Moore Theater, and Alumni Hall. These are used for student performances, concerts and plays by visiting artists, and alumni and faculty meetings. Various student groups perform regularly at the Hop, including the Dartmouth College Gospel Choir, Dartmouth Dance Ensemble, the Glee Club, the Barbary Coast Jazz Ensemble, the Wind Symphony, and the Symphony Orchestra, among others.

WILLIAMS: THE BERNHARD MUSIC CENTER (1979) contains 2 classrooms equipped with multimedia technology and Steinway grand pianos, 23 practice rooms, 10 faculty offices, as well as concert and rehearsal spaces.

Numerous concerts take place year round in the 250-seat BROOKS-ROGERS RECITAL HALL, along with all-college lectures, classes, and other events. The lower level holds faculty offices, an Artist Studio, departmental administrative offices, and classrooms. 

PRESSER CHORAL HALL, Brooks-Rogers Recital Hall, and SHAINMAN REHEARSAL HALL, are located on the upper level. Thompson Memorial Chapel and other buildings on campus are also occasionally used for concerts. The $60 million '62 CENTER FOR THEATRE AND DANCE was completed in the spring of 2005.

AMHERST: ARMS MUSIC CENTER (1968) including the Buckley Recital Hall (1968). In 2000 it received a major rejuvenation that replaced the seating, acoustical draperies, and carpet. Acoustical draperies were added at the stage, enhancing acoustical performance of the hall for musicians. Lighting was updated, and a new removable performance floor surface was added. Amherst is also part of the Five College Music Program that includes Mount Holyoke, Smith, Hampshire & UMASS Amherst, allowing for access to a wealth of classes, venues and so forth.

KIRBY MEMORIAL THEATER was designed in 1938 by James Kellum Smith of McKim, Mead & White, with the help of S.R. McCandless, a theater designer.  Kirby has since been upgraded to a state-of-the-art 384-seat modified proscenium house, with computerized lighting and sound equipment, a stretch-wire lighting grid, and a refurbished fly system.

HAVERFORD: CENTENNIAL HALL (1984) 650-seat theater (new seats installed in summer, 2010) Orchestra pit and shell, 30' deep stage, Scenery and wardrobe shop, Stage crew etc.) for Theater.  MUSIC: The UNION MUSIC BUILDING houses classrooms, practice rooms, the music library and listening room, as well as the MACCRATE RECITAL HALL for rehearsals and small concerts. The 11 practice rooms in Union Building and Roberts Hall house over 20 pianos, the majority of which are grands. Large concerts take place in THE MARSHALL AUDITORIUM of Roberts Hall. The MUSIC facilities appear to be older and it is not clear what sort of updating has been done.

COLGATE: DANA ARTS CENTER (1966) Music & Theater Department offices, classrooms, some faculty offices and BREHMER THEATER. A building that was only about half-built according to the original plans where a famous architect didn’t see fit to soundproof classrooms, offices, and practice rooms. Music groups rehearse not in Dana but in the CHAPEL, RYAN STUDIO, and JC COLGATE while faculty have offices in DANA, RYAN, & J.C. COLGATE. There is a small classroom in JC COLGATE. Theater uses BREHMER and RYAN to rehearse with offices located in both buildings.

Friday, November 1, 2013

On Being Strategic

by Aaron Robertson
Professor of Mathematics

What strikes me as problematic with the current "strategic" plan is that, although the guiding document states that "Ultimately, Colgate is about its people" and speaks of the faculty's creative and research activities, there does not seem to be much that will aid a majority of the faculty.  Granted, people who do research and teaching in areas that fit some vague definition of "globalization" should be happy with parts of the strategic plan; however, there is not much for those of us who do not fit in with the globalization push. There is a nominal increase to the Research Council, but that seems to be about it.

I am concerned that Colgate appears to be moving away from the scholar/teacher model toward the strictly teacher model.  The strategic plan bends in this direction.  The last strategic plan and this strategic plan proposal both demand more time of its faculty with respect to non-research based activities.

I recall early on in the process that we should decide no only what to add, but -- equally as important -- what to subtract.  Why are we not focusing and doubling effort on what we already do very well as opposed to adding more to do, which will necessarily take away from those areas.   That idea was strategic but seems to have fallen to the wayside. A strategic plan should not just be a shopping trip; sooner or later you run out of room in your house to fit everything you've bought if you don't purge what doesn't work for you.

Many working groups with faculty on them have thought about and struggled with the issues assigned to them, and we should respect such work.  However, we should also ask why the issues were decided without faculty input.  Anonymous at 9:14 in the comment section of the post "Thoughts on Being Asked to Endorse a Strategic Planning Framework," by Jeff Baldani, believes we should be grateful to be included.  That, to me, misses the point that it is the faculty that, in large part, attract students to Colgate.  If we have been doing an admirable job thus far, why should we be taken out of the process of how to move forward?  President Herbst has argued about how faculty were involved.  And yes, the working groups had faculty.  But let's look at how the strategic plan was developed.  The first letter we received from President Herbst gave  a "tentative list" for consideration in the strategic plan  (here is the link). Please compare the tentative list with what is in the framing document, recalling that the APC had about 50 meetings with departments to discuss this.

One item not in that tentative list is need-blind aid.  I would like to approach this from a non-emotional standpoint.  The revised framing document posted yesterday tries to argue that we will see a great increase in the academic profile by noting that we could replace 92 admitted students with an average GPA of 3.64 with 92 students with an average GPA of 3.84.  Seems like a great and substantial increase when framed that way.  Let me frame it this way:  Assuming those numbers, we will see a .0236 increase in the average GPA of admitted students.  Is $150 million toward this really the best way forward? Now, of course I would like to increase the academic profile as well as help students get a great education.  Perhaps a cheaper, but maybe even more effective, way forward is to tie tuition scholarships to the proposed Honor's program.  If you are admitted to the Honors program, your tuition is covered (in a need-blind way). I'm sure ideas like this were tossed about in one of the APC meetings with faculty.

We must ask ourselves: What is Colgate truly about?  Why do students come here and love Colgate? I suspect the faculty have a large part in the answer.  We should be concerned that we are, and have been, heading down a road where it becomes more difficult to attract the best faculty.  I know many departments have lost excellent candidates/faculty because of the demands placed on us. As peer schools start moving to a 4-course load while we, by affirming the proposed Strategic Plan, will be staying at a 5-course load and adding yet more peripherals to deal with (do we really need more Centers?) for a long while, we must decide if that is -- strategically -- the best direction forward. There must be a way to move toward giving faculty the time needed to handle all that is thrown at them.

Like the inclusion of a Performing Arts Center, which is kicked down the road yet again, I feel that faculty are just being paid lip-service vis-a-vis their activities and that a 4-course load is being kicked down the road to a distance where we will fall behind others. 

If the faculty rubber-stamps the proposed guiding document, then the entire faculty must be willing to concede that everyone here will never experience a 4-course load and that research time will continually be pushed aside as we are expected to spend more time on extra peripherals.  We must then figure out how to attract faculty to Colgate when other schools have chosen to place more resources in their faculty.  But we cannot ask: Well, how did we get here?

Comments on the Strategic Plan from a Faculty Member Who Decided this was not her Battle

by Barbara Regenspan
Associate Professor of Educational Studies

At this late date I want to present the reality that some of us, myself included, who love teaching and writing, and are grateful to Colgate for providing us with a place to do both, did not believe there was a way to usefully contribute to the strategic plan process.  Quite frankly, and here I will speak for myself, in an era where global warming is getting about the same attention as the Kardashian sisters, where poverty and cynical wars continue as though they were not our problem, and where public schools are being systematically defunded as an out-of-control standards, testing, and “accountability” movement eviscerates the K-12 curriculum, I believe that Colgate should not be considering its own survival in a context that fails to address the reasons why the focus of the strategic planning document is almost entirely on gaining a competitive edge to attract “the best and the brightest.”

And let’s be honest: The expensive sports facility, the costly downtown museum, and the efforts to globalize without making the elimination of poverty and war the central focus of our “interest” in the globe, were done deals before participation was invited.   Need blind admissions, which I support, is not primarily motivated in the only way it can be meaningfully justified:  to attract a group of young people without financial resources who will dedicate themselves to addressing the problems that are currently dooming the globe.  Also, although the intentions of “Living the Liberal Arts” are positive, even noble, many faculty believe that the campus fraternity culture, supportive of the campus excessive drinking culture, will cancel out the potential effects of these fine initiatives. 

Colleges and Universities need to be aligning with one another to create a coalition of public intellectuals dedicated to reversing the current non-sustainability (socially and environmentally) of our world, including the negative social habits that the narcissistic, non-sustainable culture teaches our young people.  It is unconscionable to me that we focus instead on our own survival in the ultra-competitive context created by the fact of this non-sustainability.  

I needed to write this brief letter because I am not a cynical person, and because I genuinely respect the individuals who worked hard to create this document, including some whom I know share my general views about it.  My position on the strategic plan is that I cannot support it, but that I also do not have the right to insist that it do what it was never intended to do.   I recognize the contradiction here, that my livelihood is dependent on the functioning of an institution whose strategic plan I cannot support.   But such contradictions are a reality in times of national and global crisis, and I believe we are living in such a time. 

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Open Letter on Athletics at Colgate

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:

Yoichi Aizawa,                    Professor of East Asian Literature and Language
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
                                                  Romance Languages
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.