University News

Majority of undergrads oppose reserving spots for athletes

Most varsity athletes favor admission slots, which enable teams to compete with peer squads, they say

Staff Writer
Monday, November 17, 2014

Varsity athletes disagree with the majority of other students on the University’s policy to reserve admission slots for recruited athletes. Among athletes, about 84 percent approve of the practice, while nearly 59 percent of non-athletes disapprove of the policy, according to a Herald poll conducted Oct. 22-23.

Just 23 percent of non-athletes support the practice, while 18 percent expressed no opinion.

In total, the majority of undergraduates — nearly 54 percent — disapprove of admission slots being reserved for varsity athletes. Thirty percent of the student body approves of the policy, and 16 percent reported having no opinion.

“I can see why so many students would disagree with the policy,” said Shandell Scott ’17, a recruited track team member. “From their point of view, it’s unfair.”

But, she added, recruiting is necessary to ensure that teams are competitive. “It’s a smart idea on the part of the school to (ensure) that an athlete has a spot there. It wouldn’t make sense for a coach to pursue someone, and then they don’t get in,” Scott said.

Ben Maurey ’15.5, captain of the men’s soccer team, echoed Scott, noting “it would be hard to compete at a national level if we didn’t recruit.”

Maurey, who is a two-year captain and starter, said that players like him wouldn’t have considered coming to a school like Brown if they hadn’t been recruited. Scott said she was not even aware of Brown before the recruitment process began.

The University reduced the number of admission spots reserved for athletes from 225 to 205 over the last three years, as part of a series of measures to change the athletics department that former President Ruth Simmons proposed in 2011 following significant debate.

As part of the changes, the University also raised the minimum Academic Index  — a measure of grade point average and standardized test scores — for admitted athletes, beginning in fall 2012, The Herald previously reported.

Despite the changes implemented, maintaining a certain number of admission slots for athletes is critical to maintaining Brown’s “rigorous balance of outstanding academics athletics and highly competitive athletics,” said Director of Athletics Jack Hayes. “We need to make sure we are filling out teams and our roster with interested and academically capable students,” he said. “There needs to be some mechanism for how we attract students, build team rosters and make teams competitive. Those things are accomplished through a proactive recruiting effort.”

Though admission slots are set aside for athletes and coaches may express support for an applicant, the Admission Office makes the final call on all applicants, Hayes said, adding that admission staff members considers each student individually during the process.

Some non-athletes said Brown should not admit students primarily for athletic abilities and should hold athletes to the same academic admission standards.

Hannah Yi ’18, a member of the women’s rugby team, said athlete recruitment “diminishes the prestige of what an Ivy is supposed to be — first and foremost, an academic institution.”

Yi said that it is not difficult to walk on to a sports team, raising questions about “what value recruitment spots hold on varsity teams.”

Women’s rugby, which was elevated to varsity status this fall and is composed entirely of walk-ons, won this year’s Ivy Championship, which Yi said shows the “athletic prowess among regularly admitted students.”

Though Maurey said he recognizes the achievements of the rugby team’s walk-on athletes, he doubts how successful the soccer team would be without recruits.

Aubryn Samaroo ’17, a recruited track athlete, said many students mistakenly believe that recruits receive athletic scholarships from the University. But like all Ivy League schools, Brown only grants financial aid based on demonstrated need.

“We take the same classes — they aren’t dumbed down,” Samaroo added. “We work just as hard to get in, and we are just as smart.”

Athletes have more to offer than just intelligence, like leadership and the ability to work in a team environment, which are useful in a workplace, Maurey said.

“I don’t perceive my college experience to be an athletic experience. The purpose is to get a better education. If you want to get better at water polo, maybe this is not the place for that,” said Ria Mirchandani ’15, who is not a varsity athlete. “I see how hard athletes work. … I do not doubt that they would be as deserving as anyone else here if they had worked on their SATs and not athletics.”

Recruitment is crucial to increase the diversity of perspectives on campus, said Sohum Chokshi ’18. “It’s arrogant to believe that textbook knowledge is the only kind of knowledge.”

  • Guest

    And why exactly do we need competitive sports teams?

    • Guest

      Guest, see Nosmo’s post below as an answer to your question. If you don’t want an Ivy League degree then we don’t need competitive sports teams. If a majority of the students and administrators feel the way you do then we should absolutely drop out of the Ivy League and join a far less competitive athletic conference like the Great Northeast Atlantic Conference with Johnson & Wales, Simmons College and Suffolk University where the schools don’t pursue athletic recruiting and are fairly competitive among one another. Or we could just simply be an independent D-III school, but any solution to this concern requires dropping out of the Ivy League. Be interesting to see the students’ response if the question was asked that way – “how would you feel if Brown dropped out of the Ivy League?” Maybe the BDH can follow up on that one.

  • nosmo king

    The Ivy League designation that Brown enjoys and cherishes relates solely to its position as a Member of the Ivy League, an athletic conference not an academic league. If we don’t want to field sports teams that are competitive within the Ivy League then we would ultimately be forced to drop out of the Ivy League. Without recruited athletes, Brown would struggle to compete in the NESCAC, the most academically prestigious small school league (aka “the “little ivies”) where athletic recruits represent an even larger component of the student body. Quite frankly, the non-athletes should be thanking the athletes for maintaining Brown as a competitive participant in the league and preserving the academic prestige that comes with being a member of the Ivy League, doing so by taking a full course load while dedicating 20+ hours per week to their sport in most cases. That’s why we need competitive sports.

    • CAC to Brown

      “Without recruited athletes, Brown would struggle to compete in the NESCAC, the most academically prestigious small school league (aka “the “little ivies”) where athletic recruits represent an even larger component of the student body.”

      And yet even at NESCAC schools (at least at the one I played at prior to playing at Brown), there is still an overwhelming and very vocal sentiment that the athletes don’t “deserve to” be there. I just can’t help but feel like all these people would be more deserving of their spot at their prestigious schools if they spent less time arbitrating who deserved to be there and more time “working on their SATs” 😉

    • Matt ’12

      I don’t agree with those who seek to remove athletic recruitment from Brown, but let’s not pretend that Brown’s designation as an Ivy League today is driven by its continued participation in the athletic conference. Should Brown ever move to NESCAC, Brown would still colloquially be referred to as an Ivy.

  • Guest

    Brown needs the Ivy League much more than the Ivy League needs Brown.

    The Ivy League is a collegiate athletic conference comprising sports teams from
    eight private institutions of higher education in the Northeastern United
    States. The term became official after the formation of the NCAA Division I
    athletic conference in 1954. The conference name is also commonly used to refer
    to those eight schools as a group. The term Ivy League has connotations of
    academic excellence, selectivity in admissions, and social elitism. – Wikipedia

    Most people that I have come in contact with outside the northeast don’t even know about Brown University. It is not Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Penn or even Columbia. Institutions recognized worldwide on their own. Even Dartmouth is more recognized nationwide than Brown. If Brown did not reserve slots for athletes and drop out of the Ivy League due to lack of being competitive, Brown would still be a quality university. But the lack of Brown’s name recognition combined with not being part of the Ivy League would no doubt reduce the desire of some to attend which in turn would eventually reduce the entrance requirements due to less demand.
    So thank you Brown Athletics.

    Based on the shallow remarks of one student who did not get into
    Brown with an athletic slot in the article above, maybe Brown should begin to
    question the students that are not admitted with an athletic slot. With bliss
    ignorance, woman’s rugby in its infancy is compared to woman’s basketball,
    soccer, volleyball, track or swimming who have been training at a national
    level for years. Most would be awarded a full athletic scholarship at non Ivy
    universities. The same is true with the men’s programs.

    So if the reservation of athletic slots” diminishes the prestige of what an Ivy is supposed to be — first and foremost, an academic institution”, Brown duly understands that the Ivy League is first and foremost an athletic league.

    • Guest

      Brown was the “it” school to apply to in the 80s. There’s been a revival of it’s hipness over the last 5-10 years as evident of “cool” celebs choosing it over more prestigious peers e.g., Emma Watson, Serena van der Woodson. This cohort does not care how many games the football or lacrosse team wins, they are attracted to the vibe. A vibe that is seriously jeopardized when you let in too many meatheads. Student-athletes at Ivies should be able to get in with merit, and then the teams are fielded. The issue is that too many coaches, here and at other Ivies, don’t value the academic reputation or altering the vibe of the classrooms, they just want their wins — wins 95% of the campus doesn’t care about. Harvard’s current basketball roster is a perfect example of blatant disregard for Ivy admission standards. Let the ignorant “Tailgate States” conduct themselves like that. Things are supposed to be different in the Ivy League.

      • Brown Dad

        There are plenty of outstanding academic schools out there that don’t value athletics as highly as the Ivy League, Stanford, Duke, Georgetown, Northwestern and Cal do. You should have probably gone to one. My son (a recruited athlete) chose Brown over Harvard, Yale and Princeton among other strong academic non-Ivies even though he was offered scholarships at the non-Ivies and more financial aid from HYP. He chose Brown because of a strong affinity for the coaching staff, players and the “vibe” established within their team. I think he would take exception to being called a “meathead” even though it wouldn’t be the first time some self proclaimed intellectual hipster did it despite the fact that his academic index is well above that for an average Brown student. He’s done quite well in both the classroom and in his sport, but as a result of his dedication to his coursework and sport he has limited time to party with the hipsters, celebs and cool kids so he wont kill your buzz.

        • A Different Brown Dad

          I am sure there are not statistics but based on the “eyeball test” would it be fair to say that most athletes that were given admission slots are doing just as well academically as the students that got in based on grades only?

        • Tim

          I agree with your overall point that if you don’t like the emphasis on sports go to a school like Chicago or MIT, but comparing Ivy League athletics to the athletic program at Stanford is pretty hilarious. I think Stanford has more NCAA championships than the entire Ivy League combined

          • Brown Grad

            Tim, you are absolutely wrong.
            Most NCAA Championships:

            1. UCLA
            2. USC
            3. Stanford
            4. YALE
            5. PRINCETON
            6. CORNELL
            7. Penn State
            8. Navy
            9. Ohio State
            10. Michigan
            11. HARVARD
            12. Arizona State
            13. PENN
            14. OK State
            15. Texas
            More Ivies in the top 15 than any other conference. Everyone should stop trying to pretend that athletics aren’t crucial to the Ivy League and important to what the Ivy League regards as its educational experience. They are crucial and the entire reason the Ivy League exists.
            The Ivies are pretty damn good and consistently vying for national titles in rowing, lacrosse, ice hockey, squash, fencing and others, and have for decades I’d take Brown against Stanford in almost any of those sports any year.
            The fact that we do this without athletic scholarships and the athletic budgets of these large state institutions or a complete disregard for admission standards (like every Non-Ivy in that top 15) should be celebrated by the student body. It’s actually awesome.

          • Tim

            Where are you getting these numbers from? I’d love to see your source because you’re 100% wrong according to the NCAA record book, for both team, individual, and combined.

            Also, if you think Stanford doesn’t have as difficult of admission standards as the Ivy League, you’re just furthering your display of ignorance


          • Tim

            Also, my original point was that Ivy League programs weren’t comparable to Stanford’s program which is essentially irrefutable. Stanford has won a team national championship in like 36 straight years or something. The entire Ivy League is lucky to win one championship any given year (Pac 12 almost always wins 5+)

  • Brown Grad

    So would a majority of the student body also oppose reserving admission slots for all students who excel outside of the classroom in areas other than athletics? Areas such as theater, dance, music and other artistic endeavors? The school reserves spots for these students too so should everyone have a problem with that? I think not, in the same way they shouldn’t have a problem with spots for recruited athletes.
    Brown’s goal for its student body has always been to have a diverse student body. So they have “spots” for everyone who helps them achieve that goal. I find it mind boggling that somehow the majority of a student body who presumably came to Brown in large part to embrace this diversity does the exact opposite when it comes to recruited student-athletes who represent less than 15% of the student body.
    Also, why should excellence outside of the classroom not be factored into an admissions decision? Who is more impressive, “well rounded” and likely to succeed at a higher level in the “real world”, the 4.0 student with 2400 board scores and 5s on every AP or the 3.5 student with 2000 board scores that is an All-League, All-State, Nationally ranked and/or Internationally ranked athlete? In my experience, its the latter and its usually not even close.
    I am an alum and was not a recruited athlete, but I walked on to a sport at Brown because I wanted to compete outside of the classroom and thought it would keep me in good shape. For those of you that are non-athletes who don’t appreciate the contributions of athletes, you have no idea of the commitment that your athletic peers pour into their craft. It is equivalent to doubling your course load all while increasing your need and desire for sleep. Without the efforts of your athletic peers, Brown would not be in the Ivy League, not even “colloquially” (as if “colloquially” even matters). As someone else stated, Brown needs the Ivy League far more than the Ivy League needs Brown and, sadly, it isn’t even debatable – we have the lowest endowment in the league and are 7th or 8th in academic ranking depending on which rankings you want to look at. If Brown lost its Ivy League membership, the undergraduate population would be in big trouble. Trust me, it would immediately impact our company’s hiring practices.
    I find it quite stereotypical how the implication is that all of these recruited athletes are somehow academically and intellectually inferior to their non-athletic peers. In my experience, Brown student-athletes were not only among the best students to come out of Brown, but also among the most successful alums that the school has. So like others here have said, the student body should be thanking these student-athletes for their efforts and abilities allowing Brown to remain competitive in the Ivy League which adds an immense amount of value to everyone’s Brown degrees. The best way to show that support is to head out to a game or match and cheer on your classmates. Its the right thing to do and its a hell of a lot more fun than being a small minded hater. You’ll find the market for small-minded haters to be pretty small when you graduate too.

    • Guest2

      A few major issues here:
      1. None of the other groups on campus have “slots” reserved in the same way that athletes do. Music/Drama/other organizations do not have the opportunity to submit x number of names to the admissions office, and then expect with a high probability that these specific students will be admitted. That is where the inequality lies.
      2. There is a gigantic leap in logic here and in other posts, that if we were to perform more poorly in Athletics, we would then have to leave the Ivy League. We could easily stay as a member of the conference, winning some games in some sports and losing others.

      • Guest3

        You are wrong. There are “slots” for the music and drama departments as well as others. Those students are recruited just like the athletes are and not nearly all of them would get in purely on their academic body of work.

        • Guest4

          I know for a fact that this is false. (I have talked to the head of the music department about this.) Only varsity sports are allowed to recruit.

          • Guest5ish

            I dont know who you talked to, but it’s not correct. Brown needs to satisfy the student number requirements of the arts departments just as much as it needs to satisfy such requirements of the athletic teams. If an applicant is an extraordinary dancer, musician or thespian, then they will not be held to the same academic standards through the application process as someone without such a special talent outside the classroom. Also, they will have a “promoter” within the Brown department wanting them just like a coach supports and athletic recruit. Wake up. If you think that Brown does not recruit or would not accept a renowned concert musician with an academic profile inferior to the average student then you are naive. And Brown students should be happy about that. They should want to be surrounded by excellence everywhere – in the classroom, athletic fields and arts – and it takes 3 different types of talents to achieve that lofty goal. Embrace it. Quite frankly, the non-athletes and non-artists seem to be the ones who should be working harder on holding up their end of the bargain. Its not as if all of them are magna cum laudes in academically rigorous majors or even close….

    • Matt ’12

      I wanted to respond to your comment referencing my previous comments about Brown being “colloquially” a member of the Ivy League. I agree with a lot of what you said. I too was a walk-on athlete during my time at Brown and my teammates were some of the most impressive peers I encountered in terms of intellect, ambition, and discipline. However, this argument that Brown is an “Ivy” because of its membership in the Ivy League athletic conference needs to stop. It just isn’t true. Do you know why everyone here is so quick to remind the naysayers that the Ivy League is technically an athletic conference? Because no one knows that–not even students at Brown or other Ivy League schools. The Ivy League title had transcended it’s original meaning and has become more of a list of the “ancient”, elite liberal arts colleges of America. Brown, like the rest of the Ivy League, will maintain its image (at least for the foreseeable future) across America regardless of it remaining in this athletic conference. If Brown were to leave the Ivy League athletic conference, the rest of the world would collectively shrug (if they could even be bothered to hear the news in the first place). Let’s focus arguments on how student-athletes at Brown actually add value to the Brown community and deserve to be here, instead of being pedantic and pointing at outdated nomenclature.

  • ~

    “I see how hard athletes work. … I do not doubt that they would be as deserving as anyone else here if they had worked on their SATs and not athletics.”

    Ignoring the fact that this quote is incredibly belittling, who the hell does this girl think she is? I dare her to attempt to spend a week in the life of a varsity student-athlete. Then come back and tell us how we don’t deserve to be at Brown.

  • meathead

    It’s important to acknowledge that academic standards for reserving spots on sports teams vary widely. AKA “money” sports such as football and basketball are given more leeway as far as high school SAT & GPA standards go. Other sports teams at brown that don’t generate as much money/aren’t as “big” don’t have the same luxury. Many recruited athletes at brown have SAT scores that are just as high as regularly admitted students. In addition, they are tasked with keeping up with the same workload while practicing their respective sports for 20+ hours a week. I don’t think that it’s fair to lob all of the athletes together as collective “meatheads” because that simply isn’t accurate. The truth of the matter is that they haven’t done anything to harm the university- a university that has spread its name via talk of the acceptance of all people. Isn’t it a tad bit hypocritical to harbor feelings of hatred towards a group of people when that’s the very type of behavior our university is attempting to banish? I’m very disappointed in the student body of this school.

    • Guest

      Meathead, I am a fan of all student athletes, but to be clear, there are no “money” sports at Brown…..

      • Ehh not quite

        While I agree that the school probably doesn’t get much income from any sports, there are DEFINITELY sports that get treated with a little more respect and “perks” by the administration. Someone on another article mentioned the fencing team not having a locker room at all, and women’s squash, tennis, and gymnastics all share a tiny room (complete with periodic ant infestations) and are two or three people to a locker. Quite a few teams, usually the smaller ones, tend to get lost in the shuffle.

  • Brown Alumni

    As an alumni I was upset to see this post.
    Before I construct my argument, some background on myself:
    I was a recruited athlete for track and field
    My GPA and ACT scores coming into Brown were above the acceptance range
    After surgery junior year, I experienced a year without athletics
    I graduated with 4.7 GPA, honors, and created the first integrated design concentration ever at Brown

    I am saddened to see this article. I believe the questioning of varsity athlete recruitment, although a valuable argument, disserves more thought. There was barely any consideration of what happens to Brown students after graduation. There was also no consideration in this article, or the poll, on the NCAA’s postitive impact on Brown’s diversity.

    On work:
    You leave Brown, and in some shape or form, you get a job in the real world.

    I learned many things at Brown that positively shaped my career. I like to think these “learnings” come from four places: athletics, extracurricular, classes, and social.

    Interestingly enough, the skills I call upon DAILY to push my career forward come mostly from athletics and extracurriculars. Yes, the workload and content of my classes have helped. However, the most important skills I use day to day, like critical thinking, complex human-centered problem solving, leadership, sheer grit and determination, teamwork, stamina, learning to take criticism, taking direction, and many MANY more all came from athletics and extracurricular.

    As an athlete, you learn what its like to work with a team, you only have 3 hours to a day to do 6 hours of school work (time management), you learn to take direction from your coach, you become tough.
    *Pause: I can’t stress this point enough, don’t underestimate toughness and stamina when you graduate, the world is not looking out for your dreams like Brown does, and you have to fight for them. Ask any alumni.
    As an athlete you understand what its like to push yourself to the breaking point, and you learn to work on something consistently day in day out (that’s what work is).

    You can absolutely learn these skills from other places at Brown. However, for me personally, as well as many others, athletics is a means of collecting these learnings in an empowering way, 4-5 hours a day. Everyone learns these skills differently, accept that and let them do it their way. No one should try and take away another person’s avenue for learning, no matter how little they understand it.
    If collecting these learnings means taking a semester abroad, great do that. But this is how athletes do it, and its extremely effective for when they graduate.

    Athletics and diversity:
    Athletic recruitment gives many students from diverse backgrounds the chance to receive an Ivy league education. Without athletics, many of these students would never receive this opportunity.
    A majority of my friends on the track and field team were first generation college attendees. They would not have attended Brown if not for recruitment. It would be wonderful to see a statistical analysis on the ratio of first gen students/ non first gen on athletic teams versus the ratio of first gen/non first gen for the rest of the student body.

    The Women’s Sports Foundation reported in their “Title IX and Race In Intercollegiate Sport Report” that, “Sports help to advance opportunities for some students of color in higher education. Male athletes of color in basketball (43%), football (34%), volleyball (29%), outdoor track (26%) and indoor track (24%) exceeded their overall student body representation (22%). Female athletes of color in bowling (80%), badminton (33%) and basketball (29%) exceeded their overall student body representation (24.9%).”

    Not only does the NCAA impact student body representation, but also graduation rate.
    I think there are many more variables that need to be assessed by our student body in order to properly debate this. We cannot simply look at the number of spots athletic recruitment takes per year. That is unfair, lazy, and ignorant.
    Bonus note…I did not even TOUCH how empowering it is as a female to compete as a varsity athlete in division I against the best runners and jumpers in the nation. It shaped me as a woman in a way only a competitive varsity DI program would (no offense to club teams, I love you! Just a different vibe that pushed me personally). You want to talk about women’s empowerment? I learned how to bench 150 lbs my freshman year. Changed my life.

    • Law Student

      What benefit is it to society to have women learning to bench press like a man?

  • alum

    I don’t mind slots for athletes, but I do mind any alteration in academic standards, period. The standard deviation business should not exist. From my vivid memories of being at Brown just a few years ago, some of the athletes I interacted with were lovely students and counted amongst my friends, and some were not so wonderful. Rather than be concerned too much with intelligence comparisons, which mean very little when an intelligent person does not use their natural faculties, I am more thinking of issues of character, sensitivity to other students, and a willingness to engage in critical discussion that should be better considered when admitting athletes.

  • Law Student

    Putting Brown and “competitive athletics” in the same sentence? Really?

  • Anon

    Honestly blown away that people are arguing the prestige of Ivy League schools is because of an athletic conference. How did the conference get formed in the first place? (And what schools were and weren’t invited into this conference)? Students oppose the practice because no one could care less of how good our sports teams are. We’ve all come her to take part in an intellectual community. No one can understand what being really good at running and jumping has to do with that, and they sure as hell don’t seem to not correlate with the dumbest kids in class.