To the Editor:
I’ve been reading the columns and letters on varsity athletes at Yale with interest because I have had, over the past 35 years, many varsity athletes from different sports in introductory and advanced biology classes I’ve taught.
The bottom-line opinion? They’re as good as any of the students, some well above average, and some below. And when it comes time to write them recommendations, usually for medical school but occasionally graduate school, I indicate that the student probably would have had at least a half-grade higher if he or she had not spent several hours a day playing a varsity sport.
I’m still not quite sure how many of them manage to get the grades they do and participate in varsity athletics. I mean, how does one go to hockey or football practice, for example, for three hours a day, and then go back and do all the coursework that evening? I’d want to go to sleep. And this doesn’t even count the weekends spent in competition.
Athletics are like any time-consuming Yale activity outside of academics, except more so, because you’re physically tired when you finish.
Does it add something to college life?
Sure it does, and I enjoy going to varsity events, whether it’s a football, hockey or women’s volleyball game, to watch some of my students play, as much as I enjoy watching students perform in various Yale music or drama groups. I think the Ivies strike a pretty good balance between athletics and academics, and I speak from the firsthand experience of handing out the grades.
February 1, 2002
The writer is a professor in the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology.