Thirty five students a year might not seem like many. But when 12,887 students apply to Yale for only1,352 positions –as was the case last year –35 starts to seem like a big chunk.
Thirty five is the number of admittances the football team gets under current Ivy League policy. These are thirty five people admitted each year to Yale who might not otherwise get in. Thirty five places that the admissions office cannot give to those it might deem more qualified.
Why should football — or any sport, for that matter — get such rights? Athletics is the only extra-curricular activity that gets such privileges at Yale. It is time for this anachronistic policy to end.
Supporters often argue that varsity sports add to the life of the college, that the student athlete epitomizes the Yale Man (or Yale Woman), and that football players are good students as well as sportsmen. All this may well be true. But it does not make athletics special.
Dwight Hall does not approach the admissions office with a list of 35 applicants it wants admitted. The Singing Group Council does not recruit. The History Department cannot pick out the most promising high school historians and guarantee their admission.
Community servants and activists, singers, and those who are exceptionally devoted to their studies enhance the life of the college; they represent the values that Yale tries to inculcate in its students; and they are as good at their studies as they are at other activities.
But in the admissions office, only athletes are special.
The privilege of athletics does not end at the admissions office. Officially, dean’s excuses can be given for four reasons: illness, the death of a family member, religious holidays, and, in the words of the Blue Book, “varsity intercollegiate events.”
You cannot get an excuse because you’re in a play. You cannot get an excuse because you’re tutoring. You cannot get an excuse because you’re publishing a newspaper or magazine. Only sports count.
Suggesting that sports not be given a special status is not the same as suggesting that Yale abolish its athletics program. Indeed, having athletes does improve Yale. Diversity of interests is every bit as important as the gender, racial, and economic diversity I have called for in this space in the past. Few people suggest that as a group, football players — or other athletes — are less able to contribute to Yale than others.
But athletes should be required to meet the same standards as all other applicants and students. If the 35 students that the football staff demands be admitted cannot get admitted without that special priority, they should not be at Yale. If athletes cannot deal with their classes and their extracurricular activity, they should give up their games or they should suffer bad grades — just like every other over-committed Yalie.
Giving athletes special privileges, while officially sanctioned by the Ivy League, runs counter to the ethos which defines it. Student athletes, once recruited, are not required to play. Schools are forbidden from having athletic scholarships. And according to Ivy League literature, academic standards must remain as high for athletes as for others.
Athletes should not be given special breaks when they apply to Yale or once they are here.
Jocelyn Lippert ’04 reported in Monday’s News (“Football may get fewer admit slots,” 1/28) that the Ivy League was considering reducing the number of football admittance slots. Yale ought to lead the charge at the Ivy League to do away with such reserved spots altogether, and for all sports.
Jacob Remes is a senior in Saybrook College. His columns appear on alternate Wednesdays.