Web Exclusives: TigersRoar

Letter Box


Letters from an readers about the seven-week rule for athletes

On the Campus, November 6, 2002
President's Page, February 26, 2003

April 29, 2003

A recent article in Barron's featured our John Rogers ’80, an African American who founded Ariel Capital Management Company of which he is now the chief executive officer. Rogers states that his investing philosophy reflects lessons he learned while playing basketball at Princeton (he was captain of the 1979-80 team) and calls Pete Carril "the best teacher I ever came across."

It is very disheartening to see the continued denigration of athletics by our intellectually elitist administration, which continues to introduce new impediments for athletes. The statistics prove that the grade accomplishments of our athletes lag those of the nonathletes, but no one cares to inquire as to what their contributions were in graduate life. Even the New York Times, which recently had a featured article on our secretary of defense, Don Rumsfeld ’54, praised Don for his tenacity and perseverance in implementing change in the military and indicated that these character traits were honed when he wrestled at Princeton.

I was not a lettered athlete, but I respect and admire those who were and feel that they contributed to my enjoyment of the Princeton experience as well as what they learned for themselves in their athletic pursuits. It is just possible that seven more weeks with the Pete Carrils of the world may produce better graduates then extra hours in the library or with other academicians.

J. Kenneth Looloian ’43
Mountainside, N.J.

Respond to this letter
Send a letter to PAW

April 17, 2003

No one will deny that Princeton athletics require a significant time commitment. But to think that athletes are neither intelligent nor mature enough to make decisions about the use of their college years, to mandate time off, to instate moratoriums without consulting those affected is the height of arrogance. The seven-week rule was decreed without making any serious efforts to consult athletes, coaches, or other members of the student body. Such are the actions of a person with deeply-entrenched prejudices and a tendency to act by fiat.

I could write many pages on why I support Princeton athletics, but there is no point: President Tilghman never asked for anyone's opinion.

Nathan Arrington '02
Princeton, N.J.

Respond to this letter
Send a letter to PAW

March 16, 2003

Parents in Abstentia:

Something as parents of students we have always hoped for has finally happened: Ivy League presidents have decided not only to control curriculum but also students' leisure time.

First they have limited the exposure a student may have to sports. Certainly music, theater, and other extracurricular activity cannot be far behind.

I look forward to seeing if the next generations of students enjoys their " Princeton experience " as much as their predecessors have.

E.P. Wenz '47
Mission, Tex.

P.S. First letter I have sent in seven decades. Will continue to monitor university activities and intend to contact you some time in the next seven decades..

Respond to this letter
Send a letter to PAW

March 10, 2003

Re: President's Page

Perhaps it's time to rethink the Alumni Weekly's policy of providing these pages to the president if she's going to write such drivel. The gaps in her logic are big enough to shoot a puck through.

To my knowledge, there has never been a requirement that student-athletes "participate in campus life just as other students do." Otherwise, they'd sequester themselves in their dormitories and faculty libraries just as the other students do. The statistics cited in President Tilghman's column suggest, as does my personal experience, that student-athletes spend significantly more time participating in nonacademic extracurricular activities than the typical student-but-not-athlete.

But their grades are lower, despite rigorous admission standards. Oh horrors. They graduate, choose careers, have families, and contribute to their communities. What do these grades measure? What don't they measure? Are student-athletes less "successful" in life after Princeton? The president doesn't say.

Perhaps there should be a seven-week moratorium on studying. Make the grade-seeking students smell the fresh air, go for a walk around Lake Carnegie, participate in a group activity, work up a healthy sweat.

The athletic moratorium is indeed a blunt instrument and a flawed means to a questionable end. The only predictable result of its continuance will be fewer quality student-athletes, less qualified coaches, and a less interesting, varied, and enthusiastic student body (with a higher grade-point average).

Choose your poison.

David Ramsay '78
Winnipeg, Manitoba

Respond to this letter
Send a letter to PAW

March 9, 2003

Re: Ivy Athletics

I read with interest President Tilghman's page regarding the Ivy League's new athletic schedule. I applaud the required seven-week rest period, as it will give dedicated athletes the chance to catch up on much-needed rest.

I am a recent Princeton graduat,e and I found that as a Division I athlete, I was often suffocated by the amount of time my sport took up. We were not allowed to practice under the supervision of our coach for a few weeks out of the year, but that did not stop us from having required captain's practices almost the entire academic year. In fact, we spent almost every school break on campus training.

The value of being a Division I athlete should not be underestimated, as it instills in a person some of the best lessons in life. But these values should not be learned at such a great cost. I found that it was extremely difficult to excel in the classroom as much as I desired to because so much of my energy was eaten up playing and traveling. I was also jealous of my classmates who took advantage of all the wonderful things Princeton had to offer by participating in volunteer activities, attending guest lectures, and running for student government.

It is important to remember that while sports should be taken very seriously, athletes are not super-human. There can be a good balance, but I felt that Princeton did not strike the balance well. I gave up my sport, and it was one of the hardest decisions I made in college.

I hope the newly instated rest period will allow current and future athletes to excel at their sport while, at the same time, maintain a healthy lifestyle outside of their sport.

Beth Schmierer '01
Washington, D.C.

Respond to this letter
Send a letter to PAW

March 9, 2003

President Tilghman's column "Athletics in an Ivy Context" (February 26, 2003), which dealt with the newly imposed seven-week moratorium on practicing for intercollegiate teams, is impressively reasoned and lucidly presented, but it fails to justify a paternalistic policy that is flawed in the first place, not just at Princeton but at all the Ivy colleges.

Reduced to its barest essential, the moratorium is designed to protect athletes from themselves (or from aggressive coaches or captains). The policy is condescending in the extreme by assuming that student-athletes will make poor choices about how to spend their time without administrative interference being run for them. No one tells the writers for the Prince or the song-and-dance teams of the Triangle Club or the creative artists at 185 Nassau Street or any other identifiable group of undergraduates that they can't pursue their passions for seven weeks, so why pick on the athletes other than to satisfy the academic's historic bias against "dumb jocks?"

Being a dedicated athlete in an academically taxing institution like Princeton is already tough enough and outlawing an athlete's pursuit of sport for seven weeks seems a surefire way to discourage serious athletes from applying in the first place. If that's the presidents' intent, then they should be more forthright, the way Williams has been, and just announce that there will be fewer spots for athletes than there have been in the past and participation in sports will count for less in an applicant's file than it used to.

Methinks the defection of Beth Bozman, the gifted field hockey coach whose resignation was announced in the same issue of PAW, is but thc beginning of a trend. What passionate professional in any field wants to work at a place where her work is shut down for nearly two months? What serious athlete wants to go to a place that condones such a policy? Stanford, Northwestern, and Duke, among others, must be very pleased with the new Ivy League, for student-athletes who used to come to us will now happily go to them, where they will feel welcomed and not made to feel like second-class citizens.

Thomas C. Hudnut '69
Los Angeles, Calif.

Respond to this letter
Send a letter to PAW

March 4, 2003

I have long suspected that the President’s Page in each issue of PAW attracts a very small readership. If I am correct, it is likely due to

1) the visually sterile manner in which it has been presented unchanged over time,

2) the often boring subjects the president tackles, which are no doubt of importance to Princeton, but often less so to the alumni, and

3) because an invisible barrier probably always exists between the reader and the prestigious position of the president.

While this may or may not be e depending on the impact and excitement generated by each issue's President's Page, at least in the case of February 26, 2003, Dr. Tilghman's article "Athletics in an Ivy Context” deserves widespread readership.

I have always respected Dr. Tilghman as a scientist. and a leader, now, as an alumnus whose athletic career has never ended (still competing in five sports 45 years later), I am amazed at her brilliant grasp of what as gone wrong with Ivy League athletics. They now are in so many ways, so different from the wonderful amateur yet excellent opportunities my classmates experienced.

I applaud the trial of a seven-week moratorium for each sport and more important the emphasis the Ivy presidents have placed on their collective concern.

I have no doubt that we are taking the first step toward reversing this unfortunate trend away from the true student athlete.

For all your readers who pass up the President’s Page, going back to the February 26 issue of PAW would be a good place to start a new habit.

Jay H. Lehr ’57
Ostrander, Ohio

Respond to this letter
Send a letter to PAW

February 27, 2003

I take a back seat to no one as a dedicated sports fan, but I heartily support the requirement the Ivy League presidents adopted regarding “rest periods” for all sports.

The overemphasis on athletics in America’s institutions of higher education borders on disgraceful. The Ivy league has stood apart, but the slippage in performance and participation in other extracurricular events is disturbing news.

I suggest one locomotive for President Tilghman, and her fellow presidents.

Peter C. Trent ’54
New York, N.Y.

Respond to this letter
Send a letter to PAW

November 20, 2002

The Varstiy Student-Athlete Advisory Committee at Princeton has drafted a letter regarding the seven-week rule and its gross violation of the student-athlete's right to choose how to shape his/her Princeton experience.

Why are the Ivy presidents telling student-athletes that what we do is not valuable and that dedication to reaching one's potential at what he/she does is not important?

Quite frankly, the members of our committee, who serve as the voice of all student-athletes on campus, are insulted by our president's suggestion that we need to broaden our Princeton experience and that, by taking athletics away from us, this rule is giving us a "push" to do so. This is a hot topic on all Ivy campuses and we could not agree more with Mr. Leighton's letter to PAW last week.

Please find attached the piece that our committee put together regarding the seven-week moratorium.

Jason White '03
Vice President, Princeton Varsity-Student Athlete Advisory Committee

Respond to this letter
Send a letter to PAW

November 13, 2002

Wait a minute. Let me make sure I understand this. I am a student athlete at Princeton (Harvard, Yale etc.), I had 1400 SATs, and, as a highly motivated and disciplined person, I was an all-state (football, field hockey, or ranked squash player). I pay the university more than $30,000 a year (as a strongly motivated person, I am a consumer of the best educational experience), and they are now telling me how I am to spend my extracurricular time! I think I better call the department of consumer affairs and report a gross violation, or better yet, just call my lawyers.

Okay. Now, I’m a ballerina. I spend the summer in the Royal Danish Ballet. I must practice every day. Yes, I’m an athlete, I don’t do yearbooks or radio station or whatever. I do ballet! Should I take a legal action against the Ivy League for violating my civil rights and gross interference with my personal goals?

Now, I’m a serious musician. I practice the piano (violin, cello, etc.) every day. Why aren’t I required to stop playing the piano for seven weeks? Am I to go play football or hockey for seven weeks?

Wasn’t there a book published some time ago entitled Why Smart People Make Dumb Decisions?

If I were at Stanford or Duke I would be laughing hysterically. Not just because I can now snare all the student-athletes I want, but more because the leaders of the Ivy League, claiming to be the bastions of superior intellectual activity, have just made a decision that belies that claim of intelligence.

Okay, enough of the absurd. Let’s get serious.

I have a daughter who, as a student-athlete, was recruited by Princeton, Harvard, and Stanford, and chose Stanford over the former two. I must stress that her dedication, motivation, and discipline focused on her sport carried over to her discipline and focus on her academics and other intellectual activities. I really think that the Ivy League presidents misunderstand the personal attributes that constitute the kind of intelligent, motivated athlete that seeks out the Ivy League. Furthermore, this policy will ensure that we who seek the best leaders from America’s high schools will not have on our campuses some of the best and the brightest. The George Schultzes and Don Rumsfelds, not to mention the current day tennis player, squash player, etc., who must practice daily, will clearly not be present on our campus.

Who among the Tilghmans, Summerses, Levins, etc., have the courage to admit this mistake in both analysis and judgment, and change a clearly wrong headed and patently absurd policy? Or maybe their contracts should specify how they spend their spare time!

Lawrence W. Leighton ‘56
New York, N.Y.

Respond to this letter
Send a letter to PAW


Go back to our online Letter Box Table of Contents


Current Issue    Online Archives    Printed Issue Archives
Advertising Info    Reader Services    Search    Contact PAW    Your Class Secretary