It strikes me that Blau (“Athletics injure Yale’s academic purpose,” 10/10) suffers from as much of a deficit in perspective as her friend who was unaware of the EU.
As an undergraduate, I attended Stanford, a school with a strong academic and athletic tradition. My sophomore roommate was the national champion in Epee that year, and I learned far more from him about dedication, commitment and excellence than from many of my one-dimensional academic friends. Athletes have to embody the “mental discipline” referred to in the Yale mission in order to thrive. My roommate’s approach to training and competition offered lessons that will stay with me my entire life.
It is the charter of any admissions office to build a diverse and interesting student body, and athletes are a fundamental part of this diversity. While it is up to the University and its trustees to determine what forms this diversity should take, athletics do not, by definition, detract from a rich learning environment. Furthermore, athletics and academics need not be exclusive — it is possible to select individuals who excel both academically and athletically.
Blau takes an extremely narrow view of education — that which is garnered in the classroom. What she has yet to discover is that this is the least important thing that one learns in college. The most important things, many would say, are lessons about friendship, initiative, taking risks, and broadening one’s horizons — the education through the “social experience” arm of the Yale mission. My friends involved in athletic pursuits at Stanford did much to push what I thought was possible. These are the attributes (rather than, say, organic chemistry) that have made me a more interesting person.
My old roommate did not do well in school the years he was fencing because he dedicated himself to it; but the next year, after quitting fencing, he went on to major in Physics and Philosophy and did very well academically. In whatever he did, he was consumed with a drive to excel. A snooty university (like Yale or Stanford) prides itself on selecting leaders, and leadership can be developed on an athletic field or in a classroom. Blau, evidently, has more to learn from her athletic friends than geography.
Kumar Narayanan, Yale MD / PhD Program ’08 October 10, 2003