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Letter Box


November 20, 2002

An Opinion piece about the Seven Week Rule

Late last spring the Ivy League presidents voted unanimously to institute a seven-week moratorium on varsity athletics participation. For seven weeks of every academic year the Ivy League’s varsity athletes cannot formally compete, practice, or workout.

At Princeton, where there are only 24 weeks of class each year, these seven weeks amount to nearly one-third of every academic year. Essentially, that means one third of the year we, the university’s varsity intercollegiate student-athletes, are told what we cannot do: one-third of the year we cannot train with our coaches, one-third of the year we cannot practice with coaches in team facilities, one-third of the year our choice about how to use our time is taken away.

To be a student-athlete at Princeton is a voluntary activity we consciously decide to engage in every time we step onto the field, the ice, or the court. But now, President Tilghman and her Ivy presidential peers have taken that choice away. The seven-week moratorium is a discriminatory act against student-athletes. It restricts our freedom to make decisions for ourselves. It tells us that what we do is not valuable, either to ourselves, or the university community. It tells us we are not capable of choosing how to spend our time. This ruling offends the Varsity Student Athlete Advisory Committee and the student-athletes at Princeton university! It should outrage all students because it sets a dangerous precedent.

It outrages student-athletes because what the average person does not know is that there are already many limitations imposed by Ivy League rules in comparison to other Division I athletic conferences. Ivy League legislation exists that protects us from being overly burdened by our athletic commitments and allows the opportunity for us to be integral members of our respective campuses. For example, in fall and spring team sports, the number of out of season practices the Ivy League permits is 12, while other D-I teams average 43; the number of competitions in the Ivy League average 89 percent of the permissible D-I competitions; Ivy season length in weeks averages 72 percent of the permissible D-I weeks; the number of hours per week we may train with a coach out of season is six as opposed to eight and our six is voluntary, while for other D-I teams, it is mandatory. These restrictions already make us very different from our peers at other D-I institutions. Why increase our competitive disadvantage outside the Ivy League? We are the true student-athletes in Division I athletics.

Most of our student-athlete peers chose Princeton because of its combined (and unparalleled) academic and athletic reputation for excellence. Athletically, we opted for Princeton because it provides us an opportunity to compete in intercollegiate athletics at a level that rivals the academic excellence of our university. We chose Princeton, because it offered the best of both worlds – excellence in academics and intercollegiate athletics. This likely happened to each student musician, artist, actor, writer, scientist, etc. Now our athletic experience is being significantly altered and devalued.

The seven-week moratorium restricts our freedom to make decisions for ourselves on how and where we choose to spend our nonacademic time. Sadly, the opportunity to make a decision on how and where to spend free time is something the rest of our university peers take for granted. Remember, unlike most NCAA Division I student-athletes, Princeton student-athletes are not on an athletic scholarships. Similar to every other student on our campus, a student-athlete’s education is not financially conditioned on his or her participation in an extracurricular activity; essentially participation in intercollegiate athletics is strictly voluntary. The truth is, we love to play our sports, and that is why we compete. We love to learn from our coaches. They are among our best teachers at this university, and we choose to practice with them because we value their knowledge and guidance; not because of the notion implicit in this legislation that we are coerced to do so. We love to strive for excellence and we love to represent the greater Princeton University community.

We are capable of choosing how to spend our time. We compete in intercollegiate athletics because we want to, not because we have to. The truth is, we love what we do. We find joy and camaraderie and fitness on the playing field. Athletics provides us with a sense of confidence, security, and happiness; while providing us an important avenue by which we structure our personal time. We know exactly what we have to do and the amount of time we have to do it. We manage to study for exams, write papers, sing in a cappella groups, attend plays and concerts, and service the community in between practice/training sessions. It is when we compete in intercollegiate athletics that we are most productive and contribute the most to the university community. It is when we play sports that we are most healthy and successful. It is for these reasons that we choose to play.

We ask those of you who are not formally involved in intercollegiate athletes but who choose to partake in many of the vast extracurricular clubs/groups/activities Princeton University has to offer – How would you feel if you were told how to spend your time? How would you feel if President Tilghman told you (like she told us) that you needed a “push” to broaden your experiences here at Princeton, banning/denying your choice to use your time and talents on activities you enjoy that help the whole community? How would you feel, if, instruments were stripped from musicians; Triangle Club members were restricted on how many weeks they could practice and prepare; A cappella groups were not allowed to train their vocal chords; USG was not allowed to meet to discuss and address campus issues; eating club officers were not allowed to have meetings, social events and other activities; etc., etc., etc.? Would you not be outraged? We are!

Regardless of the extracurricular activities in which you choose to engage, you most likely feel that you are getting as much as humanly possible out of your Princeton experience; that you are “sucking the university dry” (as President Tilghman wants us to do). We believe we already experience the fullness of Princeton and should not be restricted further from our pursuit for excellence in athletics.

However, there is something we love more than simply playing sports — that is competing for Princeton — our student body, faculty, staff, community, and alumni/ae. While we chose Princeton because of its unparalleled academic and athletic opportunities, we also came here for the opportunity to be a part of and to continue the tremendous tradition of excellence that is Princeton and Princeton athletics. We enrolled because of the opportunity to continue to participate in sports at a level that would rival our academic experience. We chose Old Nassau because it offered the best of all worlds. Every time we put on an orange and black uniform, every time we beat Harvard, Yale, or Brown, or Penn, every time we perform as a representative of the university, we do it with pride. We want to win, we want to excel, and we want to make Princeton proud. It’s a shame the Ivy League presidents are diminishing our opportunity to do so. You may want to pay attention or one-third of your favorite experience could be next on the presidents’ agenda.

Written by the Princeton Varsity Student-Athlete Advisory Committee
Andrea Kilbourne ‘03, President, Ice Hockey
Jason White ’03, Vice President, Soccer
Cameron Atkinson ’03, Secretary, Football, Track
John Knorring ’03, Wrestling
Hannah England ’04, Crew
Theresa Sherry ’04, Soccer, Lacrosse
Tim Kirby ’04, Football
Ross Ohlendorf ’05, Baseball
Neil Stevenson-Moore ’05, Ice Hockey
Chanel Lattimer ’05, Track

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