To the Editor:
Jacob Remes’ ’02 argument (“Yale should revoke special admissions for athletes,” 1/30) against athletics at elite institutions is not new. It was given last year in “The Game of Life: College Sports and Educational Values,” by James L. Shulman ’87 GRD ’93 and former Princeton President William G. Bowen. But the idea has not taken hold because of some sizable oversights.
The development and characteristics fostered by athletics are highly prized in our society — and for good reason. Discipline, teamwork, leadership, and striving for excellence all take place in the Division I collegiate athletic realm to a degree probably unimaginable to those not involved.
These are character traits that the University can and should hold as the highest ideals of its students. If they can achieve these characteristics, albeit in the realm of sports, then they can be turned out into the world as the kind of leaders that Yale seeks to create.
Lord Wellington wrote that “the battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton,” and, while quotations about war nearly two centuries old are quite out of fashion, that link from abstract development to concrete success remains applicable today.
Once the character has been forged in the crucible of top-flight athletics and the mind honed at an institution such as this, both can be turned loose in concert into a wide variety of fields, including public service, professional jobs and the sciences.
I specify top-flight because the unrecruited, Division III athletic experience which Remes is advocating is a very different one, generating different characteristics.
Our athletes experience the ultimate in liberal arts education. They are not learning trades — their sports will not, in overwhelming likelihood, provide their living. Instead they are prepared in an abstract way to think, to live and to succeed. The athletic experience creates effective leaders who possess both academic training and a basic ability to connect through the commonality of sports.
Admissions, as well as the other allowances for athletes that are so vehemently denounced by Remes, are set in place to assure that portions of the Yale community will continue to have this extraordinary opportunity to synthesize lessons learned in the concrete academic realm, as well as the abstract one of personal development.
Britt Harter ’03
January 30, 2002
The writer is a member of the Yale men’s heavyweight crew team.