From a tenured professor at Williams:

The overemphasis on athletics is about the only thing I dislike, and have long disliked, about Williams. This isn’t personal: I have friends among the coaches and am sure that most do an exceptional job. But athletics colonizes everything at Williams: the hours when you can teach (which, BTW, is a significant cost factor that pushes us to have more teaching space than most other colleges of our size; all the classes have to be taught in the same 4 hour period of day thanks to team practices and the so-called “division of the day”); the inability of many students to involve themselves in learning experiences outside of class hours (e.g., field research); class attendance (an issue brought home to me when literally 10 percent of the students in a 101 section asked if would be OK if they missed the second class meeting of the first semester of their frosh year because they had an away game at Bates that day); and the energy that students can (or can’t) bring to assigned work after they’ve been worked to death by coaches for hours at a time.

One can argue that this is part of the “culture” of Williams, and that scaling down athletics would change/betray/degrade that culture. That’s doubtless true, and it’s not a trivial issue. But on balance, I would welcome a modest pull-back, which could well involve devoting more money to club sports and less to varsity ones.

Comments:

1) I agree with this professor (and every other professor) that academics must come first.

2) I agree that more emphasis on JV/club sports would be a good thing. I would rather see a Williams with 100 students playing soccer for Williams (mens and womens, varsity, JV and freshmen teams) and .500 win/loss records than a Williams with 40 players (just mens and womens varsity) and success in the NCAA tournament.

3) I highly doubt that meaningful numbers of students are so “worked to death by coaches” that it impacts their academic performance. Lots of athletes (and other students) blow off their academic work, but they would have blown it off anyway even if practice time were cut in half.

4) The harder conflicts concern missing class for games. If the faculty wanted to push back on this, that would be fine with me, but I also think that class time is overrated (mainly because lectures are a waste). It is certainly the case that Williams teams seem to have many more games now then 20 years ago. Just how many games does the basketball team need to play?

Thanks to this professor for taking the time to share his views. There is a common delusion on EphBlog that my opinions on athletics and their place at Williams is some sort of outlier, at least among the faculty. Untrue. I am a moderate when compared to Williams professors as a group. And that’s why admissions standards have been so tightened over the last decade and why the tightening will continue.

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