In calling for the elimination of reserved admission spots for student-athletes (“Yale Should Revoke Special Admissions for Athletes,” 1/30) Jacob Remes betrays a fundamental ignorance of the role athletics plays in the life of this University. Remes dismisses the argument that athletics add to campus life. The truth of the matter is that athletics at Yale do this and much more.

Athletic competition builds future leaders. Two of the last three U.S. presidents competed on Yale varsity teams. More important than that, however, Yale varsity teams represent the school to the New Haven community, to the country, and to the world in a way that other campus organizations cannot. When Yale teams take the field, court or pool, they are competing for the University, and for all who count themselves as part of the it.

Those in the administration who have consistently reserved admission spots for student athletes understand what this means. They understand that Yale stands for excellence of all kinds, not just academic, not just artistic, not just altruistic, and not just athletic. Prospective students are admitted to Yale based on the totality of their application — even those who fill varsity teams’ reserved spots.

To eliminate these reserved spots would be to handicap the admissions committee. Without spots specifically set aside for student athletes, committee members who share Remes’ bias against athletics might willfully neglect candidates whose most impressive strengths lie in their dedication to and successes in sport. Eliminating these spots would also handicap the University as a whole. Building varsity teams without recruiting athletes would result in lower levels of performance and success. I would be willing to wager that no one, not even the most academically focused student, enjoys being associated with a losing team.

Remes also criticizes the University policy of granting Dean’s excuses for “varsity intercollegiate events.” He argues that varsity athletes “should give up their games or they should suffer bad grades –just like every other over-committed Yalie.” As a varsity athlete, I take great offense to this irresponsible suggestion. I invite Jacob and any other critics to walk a week in the shoes of a student athlete. In coming to a University with academic standards as high as Yale’s, student athletes are choosing a very tough road. Many are giving up scholarship offers at other colleges for the non-athletic opportunities Yale offers. They are dedicating themselves to balancing practice and a large courseload, a task that critics like Remes trivialize. Practice is hard work, and it can take 30 or 40 hours of a student athlete’s week. Competition days are even more difficult — they take student athletes out of class and drain their mental and physical reserves.

Student athletes are given the tremendous privilege to represent this University in intercollegiate competition. With this privilege comes an awesome responsibility and a challenging balancing act. Student athletes compete well for Yale, and they deserve our respect, especially the continuing respect of the administration and admissions committee.

Nate Mickelson is a senior in Saybrook College. He is a member of the men’s varsity golf team.