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Majority of undergrads oppose reserving spots for athletes

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

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.”



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