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.


Anonymous said...

I take it that none of you will be seen in the stands at any of these sporting events in the future? Also, you guys have no idea what someone can learn about themselves by participating in Athletics...that is clear from your letter. Learning isn't only about lectures, events and/or evening classes. I loved my time at Colgate and I appreciate your opinion and time teaching me more than I could have learned on the hill. However, I'd also like to thank the coaches, teammates and athletic department staff members down the hill for the other 50%. We're all in this together - please stop harrassing athletes at Colgate. Go 'Gate!

Anonymous said...

Guess athletics is doing something right:

Anonymous said...

Student-athlete response:

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I don't get it.  Are they inferring student athletes are substandard?  Too incompetent to succeed in life?  Whatever.  The ivory tower of academia distorts reality once again.  Wake up. Res ipsa liquitor....

Anonymous said...

I would like to preface my comment by saying that I loved my time at Colgate as a student-athlete, and I would do it again if given the chance.

That said, however, I don't think they're inferring that athletes are substandard or incompetent. Far from it- more than a few of those professors had me in their classes, and they were never anything less than supportive of me. I think it is unfair to paint them in this sort of light. Are there professors who do hate athletics? Maybe, and maybe some of them signed that, but I can say from the ones I had that they supported me every step of the way, even when I chose to practice instead of reading for their class (and I'm sure they knew).

That said, however, we're student-athletes; the student part comes first, or should. But it doesn't, not for many student-athletes, and anyone who was on a team knows as well as I do that there is pressure to maybe cut corners a little bit in the academic life.

These professors aren't asking to cut the athletics. They're asking to reform them, and I support that. We're students first and athletes second, but the line is fuzzy sometimes, and they're asking us to make it clearer.

Anonymous said...

As a college professor myself and a former Colgate parent, I would like to make a couple of comments. First of all, the term "student athlete" is no longer applicable. The term should be "athlete student," since college athletes usually spend far more time on athletics than on their studies. Furthermore at most colleges, the athletes have little in common with other students in terms of their academic ability, and in almost every case would not have been given admittance to the school were it not for their athletic prowess (of course there are notable exceptions to this, but it is generally true). In class, athletes are forced to compete with kids who have greater academic potential, and also have an extra 40 hours a week to study. This is a recipe for failure. Thus, they are usually given a list of "athlete friendly " classes to take which are known to be easy or to be taught by athlete friendly professors, so they are to some extent, academically isolated. Back when I was in school, athletes were not recruited (except of course for football) and the teams were selcted from kids who had gotten into school for other reasons. Therefore the average student had much in common with the college athlete, not so anymore. Now every single position for every team is recruited, and in an effort to keep up with other colleges in the conference athletically, academic standards are relaxed. This subverts the primary mission of the college which is to give a top flight collge education.
As a parent, paying upwards of $50,000 per year for my daughter to attend Colgate,I was surprised to read in the Colgate Financial statement for 2012 that Colgate spends $63 million on academic instruction and $21 million on their athletic programs. Imagine if the Athletic programs were eliminated, and tuition were then reduced by 20%. This would be a huge and welcome savings to parents. Even the parents of college athletes might welcome a $40,000 reduction in their total tuition bill in return for their child not playing a college sport and actually hitting the books a little more at Colgate.
Finally, this discussion comes at a time when both the nation and Colgate are at a crossroads in terms of higher education. As President Obama has pointed out, there is a real crisis in terms of the affordability of higher education. I see college atheltics as a small, but not insignificant part of the problem of college affordability. Second, my impression of Colgate is that it too is at a crossroads. The students from our community see Colgate as a school in the mold of Dartmouth or Duke. These schools have a sort of "work hard, play hard" mentality. These schools have a strong fraternity/sorority presence, and there is frankly a lot a drinking and partying on campus. The students at these schools by and large go into finance, law or medicine, and eschew more academic pursuits like teaching and research (with of course plenty of notable exceptions). There is nothing wrong with this, and this is the niche of these schools. At Colgate, however, there seems to be a push to cut down on this type of social life by the administration and faculty of the school, as evidenced by cutting down on the number of fraternities, and not allowing any sororities (which btw, seems downright unfair). This forces virtually the entire student body to attend one or two parties every weekend, and to drink as much as possible before the local police come and shut down the party when it gets out of hand. I get the impression that the Colgate professors would prefer to see Colgate become sort of a Carleton College east, with a much greater emphasis on academics, and a lesser emphasis on athletics. I don't know where this dilemma will lead, but I can say, with certainty, that untill the college decides what it wants to be there will be tension between students and administration. The athletic program at Colgate will be a major part of any solution.

Anonymous said...

To Professor/Colgate Parent... You obviously were not a parent of an athlete. To make these generalized statements that athletes are less than as students is completely unfair, and unsubstantiated. As a former coach at Colgate I know what level of student was allowed admittance, and it was ultimately up to the admissions department on whether or not they believed a certain student could succeed at Colgate academically, regardless of how high their SAT score was (and don't for a second believe there aren't certain standards to begin with). Sure there were some that might not have gotten in without their athletic ability, but that doesn't mean they can't succeed once they're at Colgate. As high performance athletes, most bring a 'hate to lose' attitude that transfers to their academics. Their competitive spirit is matched from the field/court/ice to the classroom. Colgate student-athletes hate getting C's just as much as they hate losing games. Period. And based on your comments, this means they have to work harder, because apparently they aren't as capable as other students. And they have less time, which means their time-management has to be impeccable. And I'll also say this - if I were to ever have the choice between hiring someone who didn't play college athletics versus someone who did, all else being equal, I hire the college athlete EVERY TIME.

Anonymous said...

In case you were wondering, last year's valedictorian (James Queeney), who was a double major in mathematics and mathematical economics also happened to a starter and captain of the lacrosse team.

Anonymous said...

To Professor/Colgate Parent.. you may not be aware of this fact, but it was a Colgate student-athlete who graduated as the valedictorian in the class of 2013. To say that non-athletes have more academic potential is a slap in the face to all those student-athletes that come prepared to class every day and devote endless hours to their schoolwork.

Anonymous said...

Sorry your kid didn't have the drive, work ethic, or mental and physical capacity to excel at school and sports whilst in college. The student athletes at Colgate really are the cream of the crop -- the leadership skills and character development they acquire via colgate athletics, in combination with the top-level education they EARN in the classroom, make them the best candidates for high level employment after graduation.

Anonymous said...

I get the impression that those of you who cite the valedictorian of Colgate being an athlete as somehow vindicating athletics as being acedemically worthy, need to spend a little more time in statistics class, and a little less time on the playing fields. If I found a smoker who somehow lived to be 100 years old, would that make smoking healthy? And yet every year some smokers live to a ripe old age--most don't. I have no doubt that there are many brilliant and academically successful athletes, just as there are students who have perfect high school grades and SAT scores who flounder academically. Nevertheless, I have no doubt that there are relaxed academic standards for athletes. I know this to be true at the ivy league school where I have done admissions work for over 30 years. It is easily verifiable at Colgate, if the admissions office would share general academic statistics of those who play sports and those who don't. The college could also share general statistics on the academic success of college athletes versus non athletes. I suspect that if parents saw some of these statistics, they wouldn't be so keen on sending them to play sports at Colgate, but Colgate is no different from most schools vis a vis their athletic programs. Remember, its the professors who are actually at Colgate who are having a problem with the scholastic perfomance of the athletes, not me.

Anonymous said...

Amodest proposal: Colgate switches all of its athletics to club sports. The 700 varsity athletes split the $21 million to sustain these sports. This amounts to approximately $30,000 per athlete per year in addition to their tuition. The rest of the students get a $10,000 discount in their tuition per year, though of course they would have to pay the ticket price to see any games they choose to attend. Sound fair?

Anonymous said...

To the College Professor/ Colgate Parent… I am a senior student athlete at Colgate. I am currently qualified and committed to graduating with honors. I am mostly hurt by the vast generalizations and stereotypes you put on athletes at Colgate. For your information athletes at Colgate have a higher average GPA then the general student body. I am surprised as a college professor that you have taken such a narrow-minded stance toward athletics. You have identified President Obama’s stance on affordability and higher education. I come from a less fortunate family then you. Without Colgate Athletics and my athletic scholarship I would not be able to attend Colgate. While I understand that the elimination of athletics would lift a financial burden from your family it would completely change my life. You also only identified one issue with higher education. It is generally accepted that there is an issue with the acceptance process and the use of standardized tests.

I am not afraid to admit that without the help of Colgate Athletics I would not have been able to compete with my classmates and other applicants and get into Colgate. Why am I not afraid to admit this? For one, I now currently have a higher academic standing then many of my fellow classmates. I know I belong at Colgate with my academic ability. Secondly, I would have been restricted from Colgate because of my lack of ability to perform on standardized tests. While athletic departments look past, to some degree, individuals success on these narrow minded tests it opens up room for other important traits that I believe are essential to being a successful student. Students who have truthfully developed skills of teamwork, communication, leadership, and most importantly hard work are given the opportunity to attend a top ranked college. If you believe that the development of these skills can be replicated through academic experience then you have never competed in a high-level team sport. I have experienced this attempt and it is not on the same par.

To the argument that athletes at Colgate only take easy classes… I have never taken a class because it was easy. I take classes because they apply to my major or because I have a genuine interest in them. If there are athletes that take these “easy” classes I can assure you that there are also non-athletes also attending these classes. Are these students also an embarrassment to the academics at Colgate? If this is the case is there not a larger issue? Should these classes be offered at all if they do not meet the standards of Colgate academics?

I do not consider myself to be exceptional when I compare myself to the typical student athlete at Colgate. If there is an exception to what a Colgate student athlete really is, it is the stereotype you have presented. My teammates and my fellow athletes are at an academic disadvantage to the non-athletic student body given free time and we still excel. If we wanted to participate in easy academics we would not have challenged ourselves with attending Colgate. Especially as female I realize the importance of putting the word student before athlete. I will never have a professional career in athletics. I came to terms with that at a very young age. While my sport is a passion my academics are a path to a successful life. If you do not want to respect the person who you described as a Colgate Athlete I can understand that, but I would like to inform you that you are mistaken as to who Colgate Athletes are. We belong at this school academically just as much as your child.

Anonymous said...

" I come from a less fortunate family then you."
"I now currently have a higher academic standing then many of my fellow classmates."
" For your information athletes at Colgate have a higher average GPA then the general student body. "

Res ipsa loquitur...imagine an honors student at Colgate who doesn't know the difference between "then" and "than." I suggest you do so before you get your honors degree....

Also I suggest you learn the difference between a "stereotype" and a "statistic." The stereotype would be to assume that all athletes are acadmeically inferior. Nothing could be further than the truth, and if I implied so in my comment, then I apologize. The statistic, which you yourself acknowledge, is that academic standards are relaxed for admission of athletes. On average, athletes will be less qualified than other students. The bell curve of academic promise for athletes will be to the left of that for other students, but plenty of athletes will be on the far right of the bell curve and will outperform many if not most non athletes. There is plenty of room for hard work and dedication for athletes to outperform other students, as you yourself have demonstrated. This is true in college and in life.
Really, who is teaching statistics at Colgate? Or maybe I should ask, who is taking statistics there?
If athletes are truly outperfomring other students at Colgate and indeed are taking similar classes, then why did the professors at Colgate write and sign this letter? Are they simply misinformed when they think that the athletes are underperforming?


Anonymous said...

Sixty-three names hardly represents "the professors at Colgate". I am ecstatic to note the relative lack of participation from the sciences in this completely statistic-less and embarrassingly offensive letter. It is extremely obvious that a portion of the Colgate faculty has never experienced life outside of the world of academia. This is an insular world where book learning is all that is rewarded, and it colors their views on the rest of the world. Of course, all of us are biased in some way, but as a student to whom these men and women are supposed to be guides and role models I am disconcerted by the ignorance that seeps from every line on this page.

Anonymous said...

Thank for pointing out my grammatical errors. I wrote that response in a rush, which was clearly a mistake because it allowed you to focus on the faults of what I said and not the point. It seems to me that you also missed the point of this petition. At no point do the professors state that student athletes are academically inferior to the rest of the student body. They simply point out that there is an issue with the time commitment required for college athletics. You mention that this inferiority at Colgate is not a stereotype but a statistic. You then fail to provide a single statistic. Do you honestly expect me to believe that you are not discriminating against and stereotyping athletes? US News states that the four-year graduation rate at Colgate is 85%. The graduation rate for athletes at Colgate is 98%. Clearly the relaxed academic standard for athletes in terms of admission does not determine how successful an individual will be academically while at Colgate as you believe it does.

Anonymous said...

Read the student-athlete response:

Anonymous said...

"US News states that the four-year graduation rate at Colgate is 85%. The graduation rate for athletes at Colgate is 98%." Oops... the 98% figure is based on players who stay for four years. The 85% is for incoming students. There also needs to be a distinction between "revenue" and non-revenue sports. The tennis team is not getting the same admissions boost that the football team receives, and they don't spend the hours either (no film study, etc.).

Anonymous said...

Some schools aren't afraid to succeed athletically as well as academically:

Anonymous said...

Agreed, as a student athlete there are pressures from all sides and it is easy to give less attention to class obligations. Nearly every professor I had was extremely supportive, some even came to my events, but they were also very clear and vocal that school comes first. I needed this and didn't always heed it. This is an important debate to have, but unless Colgate joins Nescac, this is a debate that we will always have. An open dialogue is important here, we can't just shout across the aisle. I will always support Colgate's efforts to succeed as a D-1 school with top notch academics. While this is a tough balance to achieve, it is this balance that makes Colgate unique.

Anonymous said...

This might end up being a long-winded response, so I apologize in advance, but I am trying to respond to a number of things you've said throughout your posts, as well as address some points the Colgate professor made in his letter.
First, I'd love to know which school you're a prof at, because your term "athlete-student" doesn't in any way apply to Colgate student-athletes. The athletes who are attracted to come to Colgate know the privilege of getting a Colgate education and know the importance of their studies. Like the student said, she knows that she'll never make a living at her sport, which is why she chose Colgate; she gets a top level education while being able to compete in a sport she is passionate about at the same time, a win-win situation. And only maybe a handful of students do believe they'll be able to make a living at their sport, so again, most of them are probably aware during the recruiting process what their ultimate life plans/goals/realistic expectations are, so they are choosing Colgate more for the academic opportunities than for their athletic futures.
You ask if the professors are misinformed? My answer to that is yes; either that or they have failed to do any research on the topics they have written so negatively about.
First off, the 20 hour per week rule: if they read the rulebook, they would see that game days, no matter how long it may take, are always count for 3 hours; travel days with no official required practice, video, etc aren't counted at all. So to say that "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" simply has no basis of argument when game-days are 3 hours and travel days don't count. They seem to be trying to out athletics for breaking NCAA rules when they obviously don't know what the rules actually are.
I also know of coaches and teams who purposely schedule morning practices because they may have had some players who did have afternoon class/lecture commitments, so they were accommodating to allow the students time to attend both practice and class.
As far as the year long training (during academic year), whatever is on top of the allowed off-season training is, as the student response letter states, BY CHOICE; so these professors should have done their research before accusing the athletic department of breaking rules.
And to say that they are forbidden to go on off-campus study groups is way off as well. I knew plenty of athletes who went during the semester they weren't competing. And those who played sports that went through both semesters - quite a few were able to do summer study groups instead.
Finally, you state that the tennis team isn't getting the same boost as football - how do you know this? How do you know that they don't get, percentage-wise, the same kind of 'boost?' And how do you know the tennis team doesn't study video? I can say that if they don't, then they're doing something wrong and that's a whole other issue.
My point is that you have no idea (or you do and you're pretending to be someone you're not) how it works, and what kind of student-athlete attends Colgate. End of story.

Anonymous said...

Could it be that the signatories are narcissisticly jealous of the attention student athletes receive or the money donated to support them?? Thankfully, there are more who didn't sign the open letter than did...

Anonymous said...

Another take on the open letters:

Kelly said...

I am curious when the faculty saw these changes happen.

I graduated in 2005 and managed to graduate cum laude double majoring in Economics and Policitcal Science, while volunteering at the admission office, being on the executive board of my sorority, going on the DC study group, and starting on a varsity team all four years. I missed a grand total of one class, lecture, etc in my four years. Did this take a lot of planning and time management? Absolutely. But a successful life requires similar time management skills. I also submit that plenty of Colgate students miss more than one class per semester, never mind one in four years.

I am a better person for having to meet both the demands of professors and coaches. I am better able to navigate difficult circumstances because of the planning I had to do to ensure I did not miss practice or lectures. I understood that I would never be a professional athlete, but I was pursuing my passion at the highest level I could.

I am now a successful attorney. I think a large part of my success stems from my ability to decide and act quickly. This is a skill I learned by being both an athlete and a student.

To the extent my experience no longer represents the Colgate student athlete experience, I am saddened. However, during my time at Colgate I was typical. I did not stand out in the crowd of student athletes. I think an experience like mine was uniquely Colgate.

Anonymous said...

Could this be the profs' underlying purpose?

Anonymous said...

Not surprisingly, there is a tremendous amount of hostility in many of the responses seen above--maybe because one out of four Colgate students is a Varsity athlete and has fond memories of their time at alma mater as a student athlete! However, this hostility is not warranted, and in fact, the defensiveness of the responses defeat their supposed purpose. Read the letter carefully: the professors are not calling for the elimination of athletics. Rather, they are noting a shift in the balance, through time, between athletic demands and academic demands. With this as basis, they are calling for an open debate on the role of athletics at a premier liberal arts college whose stated mission is higher education first.

Therefore, why not have the open debate? Is it even realistic for a school of ~2,500 students to maintain such a huge Division One presence when each sport seems to be engaged in a recruiting and training arms race? If it is not, should we move some of the sports down to a Division Three level? Have the time demands made on Division One athletes gone up in the past 5,10, 15 years, or is this an illusion? Are there differences by sport? (of course...) What is the right power balance between faculty and coaches?

These are questions that should be answered by the University community in a scientific way so that collectively the tenured faculty, alumni, and students can make an informed decision on our future as a University. Fighting against the questioning process itself is not what the Colgate education teaches.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe that this letter is receiving any attention at all. Its ideas and the argument that it is based on are silly at best. The best response we could have given this open letter was no response at all, as it isn't worthy of even the slightest bit of our attention.

Anonymous said...

Shocker that Regenspan signed this. It is sad to me that the Colgate student body is constantly under attack, whether it be by the faculty or the administration. When I was a high school student we were constantly clashing with the administration - I can't believe that continued through my college career, and I'm grateful I graduated when I did last year. Keep on keepin on Colgate athletes - you guys continue to impress me both on and off the field.

S. Fitzmichael Devlin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
S. Fitzmichael Devlin said...

First, they went after the fraternities. Now, they're going after D1 athletics.

Anonymous said...

Brava Student-Athlete. I find it tedious that people proof read online communications. You have represented yourself and your fellow student-athletes very well.

Best of luck in the future. Maggie O'Connor '87

Anonymous said...

Imagine! University faculty valuing academics over frats and sports! What will "they" do next?

Anonymous said...

I am 27 years old now, a former Colgate student-athlete, and I often think about how I would do things differently if I found myself at Colgate again for 4 years, knowing what I know now as an adult. Simply put, there is so much ELSE going on at any given moment on the Colgate campus that I never fully took advantage of, despite my parents' frequent admonitions about this very concept (these opportunities, after all, did not come cheap). To give an idea, I can count the number of extracurricular or evening lectures I attended in 4 years as a student-athlete on one hand. Was this the fault entirely of my athletics program? Certainly not, and there are those student-athletes (as has been pointed out already) that find ways to manage their time impeccably and participate in other aspects of campus life outside of the classroom and their sport. These are model students and of course there is nothing negative to be said about them and their talents and motivations. So certainly there are exceptions to what I am about to say. But being part of a sport DID contribute to my inability to take part in these extracurriculars, if not in real time and schedule conflicts, then in the fatigued distinerest I experienced at taking part in these extracurriculars as a result of my being busy all the time with either classes/homework/reading, sport-related obligations, or sleep/necessary down time. (For the record, this was not a result of poor time management; I have always had excellent time management skills when it came to sports and school). And I happen to know that this feeling toward extracurriculars resonates with many other student-athletes, regardless of the fact that many of them are in fact self-determined high achievers, as many people have already said in these comments (I, myself, ended up graduating cum laude and received at least one 4.0 during my "in-season" semesters at Colgate). But there is still a feeling of "I'm in a full time, Division I sport AND a full time student....isn't that ENOUGH for one person?" And many times, yes it is enough for one person, if not sometimes MORE than one person can happily juggle while remaining sane and well-adjusted and normal and successful in all areas. (continued in replies...)

Anonymous said...

There are so many other opportunities on campus of which students can and should avail themselves to expand their minds and supplement their classroom educations. Without a doubt, the student-athlete, simply by virtue of not having the same free time as their non-athlete counterparts, misses out on many of these opportunities due to conflicts with their practice, training, and game times (or from being too damn tired at the end of any of these). And the volume of these missed opportunities certainly accrues over 4 years of being a varsity athlete.

It is this issue in particular that stood out to me as the thing of most concern in the tenured faculty's letter. It was not an attack on student-athletes, coaches, the atletics programs in general, or even the academic ability and performance of student-athletes at Colgate. As some of the earlier former student-athlete commenters have rightfully pointed out, many the professors signing that letter are ones we recognize and remember as patient, understanding, and supportive of our participation in Colgate athletics. I, for one, was never EVER disrespected, penalized, or on the receiving end of even an eyeroll by one of my professors when I had to discuss a sports conflict with them. They were always appreciative and accomodating, and knew that their student athletes were hard workers, interested in earning the grades they received every step of the way. As far as I can tell, the faculty letter was simply a request to investigate the time commitments of student-athletes to see if there is a possibility that they are getting gipped out of another very integral part of their Colgate education, relative to their non-athlete counterparts: The part of being around and available for other stuff BEYOND their classes and their sports.

I agree that most Colgate student-athletes take their academics as seriously as their sports, if not moreso, and I agree that involvement in athletics also has its merits in teaching lessons that aren't necessarily learned in the classroom, or in any other forum as well as being seriously committed to a team sport: communication, teamwork, leadership, hard work and perserverance, to name a few.

But those truths themselves do not preclude the truth that those students with immense time commitments to sports inevitably miss out on certain parts of college-student life. There is no need for athletes or supporters of athletics to get upset or defensive; no one is suggesting eliminating athletics, and no one is squarely blaming athletes, teams, or coaches for this very real issue. It is simply a byproduct of being a school that values rigorous academics AND rigorous Division I athletics programs, and it is a relationship that can and should be periodically reevaluated to ensure its sustainability and proper balance. I support the letter written and signed by the tenured faculty, and I applaud them for beginning this dialogue so effectively. Thank you, and Go 'Gate!

Anonymous said...

As a recent Colgate graduate, this comment is dead on. Unfortunately any reasonable attempt to address issues on college sports inevitably devolves into ad hominem attacks remiscent of the fraternity debate. I mean really, "Sorry your kid didn't have the drive.... blah blah blah"-Anonymous. An embarrassing and juvenile defense of a failing system. Clearly the only leadership styles this person learned was in belittlement.

A little push back against the athletic department to protect the academic standards of athletes is a responsible and desperately needed move. I propose next they change the name of the Athletic Department to the Games Department.

Anonymous said...

This letter includes several unsubstantiated assertions based (apparently) on anecdotal evidence. I request clarifications or data below:

- "teams often train two and three times a day, six days a week for the entire academic year" - Cite data.
- "students admit that they are often putting in 40 hours or more per week" - Which students? Cite survey data.
- "One in four men and women on our campus is a varsity athlete" - Cite data.
- "Because of the immense demands on them, athletes are often isolated. They are cut off from mainstream campus culture and academic life" - Define "often." Define "isolated." Define "mainstream campus culture." Cite survey data.
- "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." Define "some." Cite survey data to establish prevalence.
- "coaches often dictate an inordinate portion of the student-athletes' daily, weekly, and yearly schedules." Define "often." Define "dictate." Define "inordinate."
- "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." Define "a segment."
- "early morning training leaves many athletes exhausted by mid-afternoon." Cite survey data.
- "a number of seniors note that four years of athletics comes at a cost to personal growth and academic progress." Define "a number." Cite survey data.

Anonymous said...

Student-Athlete Response: