Web Exclusives: From the P-Nut Gallery
a column by Nate Sellwyn nsellyn@princeton.edu

For an alternative view of the seven-week rule, see President Tilghman's President's Page in February 26, 2003, issue.

February 26, 2003:

Nuts to the seven-week rule
Why don't tuba players get a moratorium?

By Nate Sellyn '04

It was bound to crop up eventually, tearing me away from my steady diet of interviews and ranting. Yes, it was only a matter of time, and here it is here, rearing its ugly head: an issue! The seven-week moratorium.

What is it? Well, it's a sports issue, and a big one. The moratorium — henceforth to be referred to as the 'Mistake' — is a measure the Ivy League presidents adopted last summer which prevents all student-athletes from engaging in their sport for seven weeks out of the year. The bounds of this measure are fairly extensive. The athletes cannot practice with their coaches, in their facilities, or with their teammates during this period, even in a strictly voluntary sense.

The presidents, especially our own Chief Tilghman, believe the Mistake will allow student-athletes to begin truly sucking the universities dry during their time on campus. In these seven weeks, they believe, student-athletes will engage in activities, academic opportunities, and social events that their athletic endeavors would have otherwise prevented them from. Students can go out and join a club, attend a lecture, or do some partying that they couldn't manage if they also had practice that day.

What are my feelings on the Mistake? Guess. The student body, athletes, and pretty boys like me are outraged by the idea. Their objections are fairly simple:

Athletics at Princeton and the other Ivies are voluntary. Since no athletic scholarships are awarded, no one plays sports because of anything other then his or her own desire. By preventing students from playing and practicing, the presidents will be limiting the freedom of those they are trying to help. Imagine if the same idea were applied to another student group? What if musicians couldn't practice? What if the Daily Princetonian office couldn't publish? What if the debate team were muted? The presidents would be laughed right out of their... presidential-idea presentation places! Shirley Tilghman would be laughed right out of Nassau Hall! That's better. It's an entirely legitimate argument that athletics are just as important to Princeton as any of the above activities. So the outcry should be of similar volume. The student-athletes have been very vocal about their opposition, why is their opinion not changing matters?

Ivy League legislation on sports participation is already pretty heavy, and frankly, it shows. Many teams are not very competitive at the Division I level. If things got worse, several teams would simply become laughing stocks... For example, according to the Princeton Varsity Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, in single semester team sports, the amount of out-of-season practices the Ivy League permits is 12, while other D-I teams average 43. Also, Ivy teams' season lengths in weeks average 72% of the permissible D-I weeks.

Student-athletes simply aren't very restricted at the moment. Varsity athletes are involved in almost every organization on campus, despite their athletic obligations. They sing, they play, they write... Sure, being part of a team prevents you from doing some things. Some clubs simply require a huge deal of time. However, these same clubs take up just as much time, if not more, than being an athlete. Why do they not face limitations?

Currently enrolled students chose Princeton knowing they could come here and experience the ultimate combination of athletics and academics, competing at the highest level in one while excelling and being in the best environment for the other. With the Mistake, students will have their athletic experience — one they chose — devalued and reduced. Their competitiveness will suffer, their enjoyment will suffer, and their time at Princeton will suffer.

The USG and the Princeton Varsity Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (VSAAC) have joined to fight President Tilghman together on the matter of the Mistake. A USG Resolution contains the following highlights:

Whereas we ... representatives of the entire student body and the student-athlete population of Princeton University affirm that the arbitrary 7-week Moratorium is an unfair restriction on the free time of student-athletes devised without the input of students, current or past.

... this discrimination sets a dangerous precedent that would be deemed unacceptable if applied to other distinct groups of students....the Moratorium contradicts the re-affirmation of Princeton's commitment to Division I athletics made in the mid-1990s by the Trustees of the University.

All this said, you shouldn't just take my word for it — this is an issue that many on this campus are passionate about. Like LeVar Burton on TV's Reading Rainbow, the P-Nut is going to get you some other opinions. My next column will feature an interview with VSAAC member John Knorring '03, and soundbites from a diverse sample of the student body showing their opinions. C ya' then.


You can reach Nate at nsellyn@Princeton.EDU