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Overemphasis on Athletics

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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#1 Comment By JeffZ On June 9, 2009 @ 6:29 am

Since you choose to pick on basketball, the men’s basketball team plays the exact same number of games as essentially every other D-3 team (maybe a few more in the years it advances deep in the NESCAC or NCAA tourney). Moreover, of the team’s 26 games this year:

14 were played over Thanksgiving, Christmas break, Winter Study break, or during Winter Study, where certainly no one could argue any interference with academics.

11 were played on Friday nights and Saturdays during the semesters. Again, not times when the majority of the student body is attending class, or even, for that matter, doing a ton of studying.

A grand total of one game was played on a weekday night during the regular semester.

So the team obviously schedules with the academic calendar in mind, packing games into Winter Study and sacrificing holidays so that they aren’t scrambling to play weeknight games during the semester.

And by the way, both senior starters on the basketball team made the NESCAC all-academic team.

Also, when we talked about views of athletics, I (and imagine others) didn’t confine our discussion of the “Williams community” to faculty — it also includes, for example, students, parents, coaches, staff, and so on. Moreover, to the extent there is some negative view of athletics, the constant harping on the academic credentials of athletes by some on this blog can’t really be helping the situation.

How many hours per week to editors of the Record spend on that activity? How many hours per week does the star of a campus production spend on rehearsals? Or the head of WCFM? The head of WSO? Etc.

If, for the vast majority of athletes, their academic performance is essentially equivalent to the rest of the student body, what does it matter in any event?

#2 Comment By frank uible On June 9, 2009 @ 6:38 am

The “worked to death” comment exposes the likely fact that its author himself or herself has never found his or her engagement in youthful athletic competition (and possibly non-competitive strenuous physical activity) to be joyful. I wish that we could hear on the subject from professors who have and, of course, that their opinions would not be voiced anonymously.

#3 Comment By JeffZ On June 9, 2009 @ 6:55 am

By the way, while it is of course difficult to refute an anonymous, second-hand post, I will note that it is very, very unusual for any Williams team to play an away game far from campus on a weekday. It might happen for a typical team maybe once per season, if at all. The vast majority of teams play the vast majority of their games on weekends. Fall sports generally have VERY light weekday game schedules, and of course football plays no games other than on weekends. Winter sports pack a ton of games into winter break and winter study. Spring teams pack a ton of games into spring break. To claim that missing class for games is anything more than a VERY sporadic concern (if that) is ridiculous.

As for the division of the day, I am not sure where this prof gets “four hours” from. Williams I believe has classes beginning at 9 (some as early as 8, but I won’t even count those) and ground through around 4, which is seven hours, not four. Moreover, I seem to recall the occasional class on a Tuesday evening as well …

When you talk about an institutional emphasis on athletics, you have to look at the big picture. I continue to claim that in light of (1) the changes in admissions and (2) the massive investment of capital into every single facility on campus OTHER than athletic facilities, most of which lag behind Williams’ peers and in some cases lag behind basic standards of useability, Williams, relative to many of its NESCAC peers, has been deemphasizing athletics over the past decade.

#4 Comment By David On June 9, 2009 @ 8:31 am

Jeff: I agree with much of the above. Some clarifications.

1) I am only claiming that my views are typical of Williams faculty. I agree that there are many other members of the Williams community. But, on this issue, the faculty count much more than parents, alumni, students and so on. First, they have much more power than all of these groups put together to change the policy. Second, they care much more about these issues than, at least, parents and alumni do. The vast majority of Williams alumni pay zero attention to Williams sports (or admissions).

2) I am not too far away from the opinion of most coaches, either. Note that the recent report and the MacDonald report had coaches on the panels. Alison Swain, Michelyne Pinard, Mike Russo and Julie Greenwood seem to agree with me on these issues. Now, Morty (being smart) no doubt arranged for coaches who share his views to be on these panels, so I am sure that there are coaches who disagree. But, if there were enough that disagreed strongly enough, then there would be more opposition, I think. Even an opponent like former baseball coach Dave Barnard was ready to go along with raised standards as long as other NESCAC schools did the same.

3) My point on the number of games was that, 20 years ago, all (?) teams played many fewer games than they do today. Did basketball players (or any athletes) enjoy their experience at Williams less because they played 20 games instead of 30?

4) Faculty like this one don’t care about Williams “relative to many of its NESCAC peers.” They don’t care if Bates lets in a bunch of AR 7s or if the Trinity baseball team plays 40 games or if the Amherst gym is the Taj Mahal. They see that Williams places X emphasis on (varsity) athletics and they want it to place only 80% of X. What Bates does is largely irrelevant, unless and until it has an effect on the college’s ability to attract the smartest students.

5) You write:

Moreover, to the extent there is some negative view of athletics, the constant harping on the academic credentials of athletes by some on this blog can’t really be helping the situation.

Ignoring the truth does not make it go away.

The central value of an academic community is honest and open discussion. A key policy issue for Williams is admissions. Who do we admit and who do we reject? Given that, we will always be talking about athletic admissions (and legacy admissions and URM admissions . . .), about what the standards are, about what the standards should be.

#5 Comment By rory On June 9, 2009 @ 9:27 am

selection bias alert!

#6 Comment By rory On June 9, 2009 @ 10:01 am

btw, part of the problem may be that williams does not follow the traditional lecture/lecture/recitation format…that is, professors actually teach (or some do) on Fridays @ Williams, which is when a lot of athletes miss class (teams often travel on Thursday night to attend a Friday game).

This is different than, say, Penn, where Fridays are reserved predominantly (exclusively?) for recitations and lab sections without the professor. So a tenured professor doesn’t see students missing class frequently @ Penn, but athletes often miss almost an entire semester-worth of recitations. A lowly grad student TA, however, can only do so much (in other words, nothing) to complain.

#7 Comment By Chotch On June 9, 2009 @ 11:27 am

rory, which teams travel on Thursdays “often”, and how often do they do so? I was not aware of this as a frequent occurrence. I was involved with the volleyball program for years and I only recall us having to leave on a Thursday once a couple of years, when we travelled down to Juniata (which I believe was about an 8 hour drive).

Depending on the distance we had to travel we would occasionally leave during the early afternoon to get to matches, but players were aware of this ahead of time so they would do their best to not schedule classes that met in the late afternoon on MWF.

#8 Comment By rory On June 9, 2009 @ 11:32 am

it’s been a long time, but i remember trips on thusdays for some of my friends. it may be different. It certainly was very common at Penn. Perhaps it is different @ Williams. I was unclear that i was generalizing more broadly than williams in that case.

to further explain my vague words: i meant them not to accuse williams of doing something unique that over-emphasizes athletics, but rather that williams does the same thing as anyone else athletically (possibly traveling on thursdays), but that because Williams is a small liberal arts school, professors see it as an overemphasis on sports unique to their situation (as opposed to when they were grad students where students only generally missed recitations).

#9 Comment By sophmom On June 9, 2009 @ 11:34 am

Hmmm, the title of this post is a great title for the whole series of posts on Athletics. Perhaps JG can use it for “Categories”?

And my only comment for the “anonymous faculty source” (who teaches so few hours in a day) and who claims that one of the disadvantages of athletics is”

the inability of many students to involve themselves in learning experiences outside of class hours

Um… that is exactly what they are doing.

Athletics is a valuable learning experience, one that should be encouraged and explored like any other passion. And there are different degrees to an expression of a passion. Williams is such that it offers a serious gallery to the passionate artist, a wonderful stage to the actor and dancer, a research quality lab to the scientist, and varsity athletics to the accomplished athlete. Whether or not any of these students end up pursuing these passions as a career, does not take away from the importance of being able to explore them, along with all their other studies, at Williams.

And for further commentary as to the folly of weighing “academic performance” to such a degree that students are discouraged from pursuing a variety of passions, even those that don’t result in a “grade”, I will now refer you to this “gentle wisdom”.

(Hmmm, now there’s an idea, grades for athletics. Might “tip” the balance of those transcripts, after all.)

#10 Comment By (d)avid On June 9, 2009 @ 11:44 am

Why can’t Ephblog leave this topic alone? I’ll offer up some brief comments as faculty working at a sports oriented Div 1 school:

1) I’ve talked to professors at Williams about the role of athletics. I would characterize the sentiment in the email David quotes as being typical. The faculty like working at Williams and accept that it is a sports oriented place, but that doesn’t mean they fully embrace that ethos. It is the very rare faculty member who was/is attracted to Williams because of the sports (the same cannot be said at Notre Dame).

2) Division III athletics takes up far less time than Division I athletics. It would be very hard for a football player at Notre Dame to take a rigorous course load and do well. I’ve been told that athletes could average one or two grades higher (B to B+ or A-) without the time intensive and tiring commitment of athletics. The same logic applies to Div III sports to some degree, but to a lesser extent. By and large, my sense was that it was/is much easier to balance athletics, academics, and social life at Williams.

3) There will always be a trade-off between athletics and academics. Schools choose to position themselves at certain points on the continuum and revisit those decisions. Williams and Swarthmore are at opposite ends (as are Notre Dame and the University of Chicago). Faculty members are inherently invested in the academics side, so it is only natural that they would prefer to shift the focus away from athletics and towards academics where there are trade-offs. Williams has done a good job of pursuing a vision, marketing the vision, and establishing brand identity.

#11 Comment By David On June 9, 2009 @ 11:46 am

I agree with SophMom on this point. Professors want students to do X outside of class. Many students don’t want to do X. The polite among them say, “Sorry, Professor! I would love to do X, really I would. But — wouldn’t you know? — I am stuck in practice every afternoon.”

As always, I believe in maximum student freedom. If students want to spend 3 hours every afternoon playing sports, then best of luck. If they would rather spend that three hours doing “field research,” then go ahead. It is up to them.

Members of the Williams community (professors and others) often complain that students want to do Y instead of X and then blame the providers of Y, in this case the athletics departments, when, in fact, it is just that students don’t find X to be that interesting.

Now, in certain circumstances, our anonymous professor may have a point. There are students who would love to play for Williams if the committment was for 10 hours a week but balk at a committment of 25 hours a week. It is certainly reasonable to structure things to avoid extremes.

But Sophmom is correct that the athletic experience is one of the very best aspects of Williams, for the 50% of the students who take part.

#12 Comment By Ronit On June 9, 2009 @ 11:50 am

@sophmom: I think by “learning experience” he meant the wide range of extra-curricular academic events – lectures, seminars, discussions, etc. – as well as the occasional class-related trips and events – which tend to be scheduled after class hours when athletes are at practice. I knew a few athletes who complained about their inability to attend such events. Now, for different athletes, the subjective costs associated with missing out on such opportunities may differ. However, if you choose to take part seriously in athletics, you cannot realistically take full advantage of the wide range of academic opportunities offered at Williams. You can either put academics first (including the parts of academic life that are not graded) or you can put athletics first. You cannot do both.

#13 Comment By anon On June 9, 2009 @ 11:53 am

Sophmom-

I’m pretty sure when the anon prof mentioned “learning experiences outside of class hours,” he/she meant experiences directly related to what’s being covered in classes, whether it be an archeological dig or a trip to a museum. Personally, I think athletics are a good thing and I like the fact that so many of our students have athletics as a part of their lives.

At the same time, I think it’s perfectly valid for a professor to argue that some aspects of athletics diminish the academic atmosphere at Williams and that Williams, as a primarily academic institution, should prioritize academics more than it currently does. One can argue with this position, but it’s 1) Not absurd, and 2) Very different from saying we should get rid of all sports at Williams.

You’re right that athletics is a valuable learning experience. So are lots of other things (like, say, engineering) that Williams does not support financially. I will say this, I’ve never had a student ask to be excused from any class or have a test rescheduled for ANY extra-curricular, from editing the Record to directing musicals, other than athletics. I get that request for athletics-related reasons every single year.

#14 Comment By sophmom On June 9, 2009 @ 12:51 pm

@ 12 and 13:

I understand what you’re saying, and I think it’s unfortunate that scheduling is such that one learning experience is forfeited for another.

But shouldn’t responsibility for that lie on both sides of the fence? Aren’t professors just as guilty as coaches of expecting their extra-curricular events and assignments to take precedence over all else? The reading load alone, that is assigned by some professors, doesn’t even seem to take into account that demanded by other professors, much less the time and effort demanded by a coach.

I will add that I think learning to juggle all the endeavors which Williams makes available, is part of what is so great about the Williams experience, and that if the students faced with the juggling act are willing to handle it with grace and aplomb, then the adults bestowing it might learn to do the same.

Perhaps more “teamwork” is required on the whole. ;-)

#15 Comment By JG On June 9, 2009 @ 12:59 pm

I think athletics get unfairly labeled as the only extracurricular that keeps some students from getting to attend X, Y, or Z outside-of-class event. What about those participating in theater or symphonies or the Record? They have all kinds of rehearsals or meetings at the same time as visiting lectures or trips, etc. The difference is that the attitude this professor is demonstrating is exactly what Soph Mom pointed out – this prof doesn’t believe that athletics have an educational/learning component whereas theater, dance, music, etc. do. Well, if you don’t go see John Glenn b/c you’re performing in the symphony, that’s obviously valuable. If you don’t go see John Glenn b/c you’re on the championship crew team, you’re missing out. I find that judgment silly. [For everyone trying to “explain” to SM what the prof really meant, um, she got that (duh) but was calling the prof out for being narrow minded.]

To anon @13 who said

I will say this, I’ve never had a student ask to be excused from any class or have a test rescheduled for ANY extra-curricular, from editing the Record to directing musicals, other than athletics. I get that request for athletics-related reasons every single year.

I would guess you’re just oddly lucky or haven’t come across it then – mind if I ask how long you’ve been teaching? While at Williams I personally was excused from class to attend a protest (through a campus org I helped found), to plan/coordinate several conferences (with Gargoyle), re-scheduled one exam for a family event and another for a conference. Luckily for me, many of my exams were self-scheduled or take-home anyway. I had friends, frosh, and suitemates also get make-ups/excused absences for non-athletics-related reasons. Some also skipped occasional Friday classes for sports. I also know athletes who missed games/meets b/c of presentations or class trips that could not be re-scheduled. This isn’t some crazy rampant problem. No one athlete misses more than a couple of classes that I’m aware of (the drive to Bates/Bowdoin once in a season perhaps for some sports?).

I’d also like to point out that many non-athletes skipping class don’t ask, they just skip. In my experience, coaches usually reinforce to athletes that they should make sure they keep their profs informed about their activities and try to work schedules around it *if possible*, I’ve never had a faculty advisor for an EC (or a student leader of an EC) remind anyone to be sure to talk to their profs. We just skipped. Shocking I know, but non-athlete students sometimes skip class. The horror, my god, the horror.

#16 Comment By anon On June 9, 2009 @ 1:09 pm

“Aren’t professors just as guilty as coaches of expecting their extra-curricular events and assignments to take precedence over all else? The reading load alone, that is assigned by some professors, doesn’t even seem to take into account that demanded by other professors, much less the time and effort demanded by a coach.”

Sophmom–

Well, I’ll come right out here and emphatically say “no.” Williams is primarily an academic institution and I do not think that professors should take into account students’ athletics and other extra-curricular activities when deciding the reading load for their courses. Academic assignments SHOULD take precedence over all else (as for “extra-curricular events,” most classes have few if any). The idea that the reading load at Williams is impossible even without taking extra-curriculars into account is laughable. We’re no University of Chicago (or Yale, Princeton, etc.) here in terms of workload. Anyone who says otherwise is kidding themselves. Huge allowances are already made to accommodate athletics.

I’ve had spectacular students here who were varsity athletes, heavily involved in theater, etc. and who maintained near perfect GPA’s. One thing they did little of is partying. There were a lot of Friday and Saturday nights spent in libraries. I realize not all students are willing to make such sacrifices, and many of them will get lower grades, plain and simple.

If a student of mine wants to make Activity X a higher priority than my class, I actually have no problem with that. It’s the student’s decision and may be a perfectly valid one for them. If this also means they they can’t do the quality and/or quantity of work required for a high grade, then that is the sacrifice that must be paid. Grades absolutely do not equal intelligence, value as a person, etc., and in most cases I don’t think less of students who decide that some other activity (provided it’s not smoking pot and playing videogames) is more worthy of their time.

#17 Comment By Chotch On June 9, 2009 @ 1:14 pm

I completely agree with JG – people may just be more aware of missed classes due to the nature of the athletics programs where students are supposed to ask their professors if they can miss. I had many friends in school who would just not go to class because they did not feel like it on a particular day.

From my experience, activities such as the Record and JA Selection Committee (JASC), could also drain students of their energy to be fully engaged in class. Record editors were typically up all night at least once a week rushing to get that week’s paper to the printer in time. JASC meets 4-5 nights a week from 10pm – 2am for about half the semester. If you are on JASC you cannot even miss one meeting because every single person’s attendance is required for the meeting to take place.

I wanted to echo what others have said here – that athletics is an important part of the Williams education for many students. Personally I gained a lot of experience in terms of leadership, organization, and teamwork that I could not have gotten in the classroom. Often I think that what I learned outside of the classroom has been even more valuable than that which I learned in the classroom.

#18 Comment By sophmom On June 9, 2009 @ 2:37 pm

anon@ 16:

You quote my query, but then answer a question I didn’t present.

I never said that “professors should take into account students’ athletics and other extra-curricular activities when deciding the reading load”. What I said was, that they were as “guilty as coaches of expecting their extra-curricular events and assignments to take precedence over all else”. I also implied that issues with scheduling are the responsibility of many, not just coaches.

I also did not say it was “impossible” to accomplish, reading load or otherwise. Obviously, it is accomplished by many, and respectably so.

You also denote the academic load of Williams as inferior to that of Yale, Princeton, U of C, and then lament the “huge allowances already made to accommodate athletics” at Williams. I find that an interesting comparison given that those are D I schools and that the athletic accommodations made there must be even more severe than at Williams.

As for athletes who spend weekends in the library instead of partying, that falls right in line with what I know to be true of almost any student with a full plate of varied interests, and whose grades reflect that sort of prioritizing.

So, anon, you are a teacher? Great. It’s enlightening to get the perspective of a working professor at Williams.

#19 Comment By hwc On June 9, 2009 @ 2:54 pm

I find that an interesting comparison given that those are D I schools and that the athletic accommodations made there must be even more severe than at Williams.

Varsity athletes represent a negligible percentage of the student body at most Division I universities. The impact of athletics on the academic culture of the school is a more challenging problem at LACs due to the small size of the student body and the high percentage of varsity athletes. For example, even at a larger LAC such as Williams, the varsity football team alone accounts for one out of every twelve male students.

While I sympathize with the two anonymous professors, I think their problem is a simple one: they are at the wrong school. It is very clear to me that the Trustees, the administration, the overwhelming majority of students, their parents, and the majority of alumni from the last 25 years strongly support the current athletic emphasis at Williams College.

#20 Comment By anon On June 9, 2009 @ 2:56 pm

Sophmom–

With all due respect, you did write that “The reading load alone, that is assigned by some professors, doesn’t even seem to take into account that demanded by other professors, much less the time and effort demanded by a coach.” That does seem to imply, especially given that you also say “professors are just as guilty as coaches of expecting their extra-curricular events and assignments to take precedence over all else” and that “Perhaps more ‘teamwork’ is required on the whole,” that professors should take into account athletics and other ECs when deciding on assignments and reading loads. Maybe you had something else in mind, but I think this is a reasonable interpretation of the implications what you wrote. I apologize if you disagree.

Personally, I like the way Williams deals with athletics much more than the way such schools as Princeton, Harvard, and Yale do. In my experience there is much LESS of a divide between athletes and others academically at Williams than at those other schools.

My point in mentioning those places (and U of Chicago) was about reading load, not athletics. You seemed to imply that the reading load at Williams is unreasonable (or that at least seems to be the strong implication of claiming that “The reading load alone, that is assigned by some professors, doesn’t even seem to take into account that demanded by other professors”). I don’t think it is but rather that it is at least no more than what is expected of other academically rigorous schools.

Personally, I have always tried to accommodate students with exam conflicts due to athletics (sometimes requiring considerable extra time on my part) and will continue to do so. As I said, I think athletics is a good and important part of the Williams experience for many students.

#21 Comment By anon On June 9, 2009 @ 4:07 pm

“While I sympathize with the two anonymous professors, I think their problem is a simple one: they are at the wrong school.”

HWC–

That’s an oddly extreme statement given the context. The professor quoted by David said, “I would welcome a modest pull-back, which could well involve devoting more money to club sports and less to varsity ones.” I said no more than that I think the present set up is basically fine, though I think professors should NOT be expected to adapt their assignments and reading loads to make it easier (than it already is) to participate in ECs, athletic and otherwise. How the heck to you get from these very modest statements, especially my own, to “they are at the wrong school”? This seems pretty absurd.

As for “It is very clear to me that the Trustees, the administration, the overwhelming majority of students, their parents, and the majority of alumni from the last 25 years strongly support the current athletic emphasis at Williams College,” hasn’t the emphasis on athletics, especially in terms of tips, etc., changed pretty substantially in the last decade? Again, _I_ think things are pretty much fine as they are right now, but if anything, the evidence shows that the administration has felt that there was too much emphasis on athletics in the recent past.

#22 Comment By rory On June 9, 2009 @ 4:13 pm

umm…i’m not sure that this “Princeton requires more work!” is true. god knows when i compared reading loads with friends @ grad school who went to Princeton, I actually had more work per week than they did. I was assigned far more reading, i believe, than is traditionally assigned at Penn for undergrads as well.

#23 Comment By hwc On June 9, 2009 @ 4:48 pm

Anon: #21

If you think things are “pretty much fine as they are right now” (and most Williams people are), then you are at the right school in terms of emphasis on athletics and would be hard-pressed to find many LACs that match Williams prioritization of athletics. I misinterpreted your comments in #13 to imply otherwise. My fault.

I am perfectly willing to add the faculty to the long list of Williams constituencies that are pleased with the heavy emphasis on athletics in admissions, budgets, and campus culture and especially pleased with the resulting Sears Cup domination.

#24 Comment By Larry George On June 9, 2009 @ 4:49 pm

Re: 22 —
When I compared at two different grad schools, my Williams load was considerably heavier than my peers’ (from Ivies, top LACs, and state u. honors programs). It was a long time ago, so the comparison is not determinative for today. I was a double major in one humanities and one social sciences department, each well-known at the time at Williams for heavy workloads. In my experience, the workload varied considerably from department to department.

#25 Comment By PTC On June 9, 2009 @ 5:26 pm

“This isn’t personal: I have friends among the coaches and am sure that most do an exceptional job.”

Lol. Substitute the word “Coaches” for “blacks” and I think you get the basic idea.

#26 Comment By anon On June 9, 2009 @ 5:33 pm

Yes, PTC, African Americans and athletes are Williams are indeed analogous categories in terms of their status in the US and at Williams. That’s some quality reasoning there.

#27 Comment By frank uible On June 9, 2009 @ 7:02 pm

This subject is one of EphBlog’s favorite forms of onanism.

#28 Comment By PTC On June 9, 2009 @ 7:58 pm

anon- That kind of speech matters. When you start out a critique with a phrase like.. “I have nothing against that group but…” it is normally an indicator that you are indeed biased. Substitute the word “coaches” for “townies”… or perhaps “art teachers”. Same, same. This person obviously does views them as outsiders.

#29 Comment By anon On June 9, 2009 @ 8:25 pm

PTC– But it wasn’t a critique of coaches, it was a critique (and an extremely gentle one at that) of the position of athletics at Williams. That’s very different from your implied example of “Some of my best friends are blacks, but (for example) I’m against the Voting Rights Act.” Of course the prof. is biased, in the sense that he/she has an opinion on this issue. The whole point of the opening is to note that the prof. does not try to separate himself from the athletic culture at Williams.

Was I wrong to point out that I’ve had many athletes in my classes that did wonderfully? That seems pertinent to the discussion, just as it would be if I had had many athletes who were awful students.

#30 Comment By PTC On June 9, 2009 @ 9:46 pm

anon- You know, you are correct, using race in this instance was a bit over the top and hurt the argument. I should have used something else that was less loaded.

My point is that there are many people, and I am one of them, who feel that athletics are just as important as academics in an educational setting. I believe the Prof shows that he/she feels athletics are not on par with academics in education… and that it seems foreign to him or her, that such a thing could be considered just as viable for student growth as Physics or English.

I disagree with David. I would put athletics on par with any single academic major. If a student is spending more time and effort excelling in sports than they spend excelling in their major, then they are probably over doing it. I think there is a balance, but that the power of athletics in life should not be under estimated. Many of these students would not be in school if they did not have sports. Every year, millions of students graduate college who would have never seen there way out of high school if they had not been captivated by a sport.

#31 Comment By PTC On June 9, 2009 @ 10:07 pm

What % of the student body at Williams plays a vasity sport?

#32 Comment By anon On June 9, 2009 @ 11:04 pm

“I would put athletics on par with any single academic major.”

Well, PTC, suffice it to say that you and I have a very different vision for Williams College. And I think you are VASTLY overstating things to say that many Williams students would not be in school if they did not have sports.

I honestly feel that athletics, at every level from pee-wee to pro, are great in many ways. And I think that many Williams students have much fuller and more meaningful college experiences (and lives) because of their participation in athletics at whatever level. But to say that many of them would not be in school at the college level without sports strikes me as well off the mark.

#33 Comment By PTC On June 10, 2009 @ 4:08 am

anon- I never said that many Williams students would not be in college without sports. Certainly, many of them would not be at Williams. They would not choose to go there.

You also have to wonder how much athletics combined with academics for a lot of Williams students to form the interest in school that produced the drive to get into a place like Williams? It is a huge jock school.

No doubt for some of them, they would be high school drop outs. Certainly not at Williams. Ask them.

#34 Comment By Daniel Bornstein On June 10, 2009 @ 9:01 am

Many athletes who decide to compete at a NESCAC school do so because they want to also capitalize on a rewarding academic experience. Thus I would say that athletics may be overemphasized in the Ivy League (Division I), but it’s hard to imagine that athletics are too overpowering at any NESCAC school.

Can somebody familiar with Ivy League athletics discuss this further?

#35 Comment By rory On June 10, 2009 @ 9:10 am

the term “overemphasizes” is too vague.

Williams has TONS of athletes per capita, relatively speaking.

Ivy league athletes have more scheduling conflicts, but there are fewer athletes per capita, so it isn’t as noticeable in general.

#36 Comment By hwc On June 10, 2009 @ 11:23 am

The impact of varsity athletics in admissions and campus culture is much higher at Williams than at any Ivy League university.

In the most recent government IPEDS reporting, Williams had 718 unduplicated varsity athletes in a student body of 1973 students. 36.4% of all Williams students are on at least one varsity team.

Harvard had 959 unduplicated varsity athletes in a student body of 6648 students. 14.4% of all Harvard students are on at least one varsity team.

Not to bore you with numbers, but the NESCAC schools in general and Williams in particular are at the very high end of those percentages in the universe of elite LACs nationally — in large part because the NESCAC supports more sports including both football and ice hockey. In other LAC conferences around the country, the percentages are more typically in the low 20% range. For example, Pomona College has 363 unduplicated varsity athletes in a student body of roughly 1600. 23% of Pomona students are varsity athletes. The top-ranked LAC in the midwest, Carleton College, has 371 unduplicated varsity athletes in a student body of 1967. 19% of Carleton students are varsity athletes.

The trustees, administration, students, and alumni at Williams take great pride in the high priority placed on athletics by the college and the resulting domination of Division III sports nationally. Along with the strong academics, remote Berkshire location, work hard/play hard social scene, the athletics emphasis has emerged as a defining quality of Williams College. IMO, it is the premier destination for an athlete with a top priority on Division III sports.

#37 Comment By frank uible On June 10, 2009 @ 12:56 pm

Depending on what sport the athlete focuses.

#38 Comment By aparent On June 10, 2009 @ 1:20 pm

Daniel@34: A Williams student-athlete wrote an article in the Record last year comparing the Div. III athletics of Williams to that of Div. I schools — and highlighted the difference in time (and intensity of) commitment between the two. In terms of practices [one/day at Williams during the academic semesters vs mandatory continual two-a-days at the Ivies] the writer made the point that the smaller emphasis on selling-your-soul to your team at Williams, along with the high caliber of academics, is the reason many of the student-athletes at Williams choose to become Ephs.

#39 Comment By PTC On June 10, 2009 @ 7:17 pm

aparent- But they would not choose Williams at all without the sports. At Williams, sports are key to the education and climate. No doubt about it.

#40 Comment By Parent ’12 On June 10, 2009 @ 8:42 pm

PTC- With only reading your comment @39, I’m respectfully going to disagree.

I really think that a majority of the students weighed academics (& possibly financial aid) more heavily than sports when making their final decision about whether to attend Williams.

I’m not denying that sports is an important part of Williams. However, I do think there are students who choose Williams despite varsity athletics, not because of it.

#41 Comment By frank uible On June 10, 2009 @ 8:51 pm

And lots of students for whom athletics or their lack was not and is not a factor.

#42 Comment By PTC On June 11, 2009 @ 6:36 pm

Frank- Perhaps… but it is not Williams without the sports. I may be a good “some other kind of place”… but not Williams.

Do you disagree?

#43 Comment By ’10 On June 11, 2009 @ 10:54 pm

PTC – as has been pointed out on this blog, Williams’ current emphasis on athletics is a relatively recent phenomenon. Williams has certainly not always been a “jock” school (and I would even dispute that it is a “jock” school now). Williams with fewer sports would be a different place, sure, in the same sense that the Williams of 2009 is a different place from the Williams of 1979. But the Williams of 1979 was still Williams, despite the differences, and if campus culture and priorities are a little bit different ten or twenty years from now, that will still be Williams too.

#44 Comment By frank uible On June 11, 2009 @ 10:58 pm

Of course.

#45 Comment By PTC On June 13, 2009 @ 4:23 am

10′- I bet the % of participation in Varsity sports has in fact gone down over the years… not up. Look at Athletics during Franks Era. Huge. Frank- What % of your classmates played a varsity sport? Were people identified as athletes? Do you often identify others, for the sport they played?

The social scene has a high degree of identification with athletics and athletic team. People are known at Williams for the sport they play, and the athletes often hang out together. There is nothing unusual or “wrong” about that in college… but when you have over a third of the school involved (unlike most colleges), it definitely becomes very relevant to the culture on campus. Smart jocks who binge drink heavily…

When does the pub re open?

#46 Comment By PTC On June 13, 2009 @ 4:25 am

In fact- Frank is a football player… that is how he is identified on this blog.

Anyone who does not think about frank as a hard nose old school football player… raise your hand.

#47 Comment By frank uible On June 13, 2009 @ 8:47 am

Now and throughout the past I have been known first and foremost as a feckless pain in the ass.

#48 Comment By Daniel Bornstein On June 14, 2009 @ 7:22 pm

“aparent”– Can you please post the link to that Record article written by the Williams athlete compaing Williams athletics with Ivy League athletics?

Thanks

#49 Comment By Vicarious’83 On June 15, 2009 @ 2:46 pm

frank@27: Agreed. And if I don’t stop reading all these posts, I’m afraid I’ll go blind.

#50 Comment By lgeorge On June 15, 2009 @ 7:53 pm

Or get warts or hairy hands or something.