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>  News Releases >   2004 >   December

Statement on Athletics and Admissions

From William N. Walker, Vice President for Public Affairs

Posted 12/10/04


This is to advise you of an issue that has become the subject of coverage in our local newspaper, the Valley News. We wanted you to be aware of it and to share with you the full context in which the matter has become public. The topic of the article is the relationship between Admissions and Athletics at Dartmouth.

For more information:

Let me begin by assuring you that the state of Dartmouth Athletics is healthy, and that we are moving ahead quickly on the appointment of a new football coach. We look forward to a new calendar year in which our Athletic Program will continue to thrive.

The essence of the newspaper coverage is as follows. The full text of the article is available at the Valley News website.

Four years ago Karl Furstenberg, Dartmouth's Dean of Admissions, wrote a personal letter to Alfred Bloom, the President of Swarthmore College, immediately after Swarthmore decided to drop its football program. The relevant portion of the letter reads as follows:

"I am writing to commend you on the decision to eliminate football from your athletic offerings. Other institutions would do well to follow your lead. I know you've heard a lot of criticism about this decision but I, for one, support this change. You are exactly right in asserting that football programs represent a sacrifice to the academic quality and diversity of entering first-year classes. This is particularly true at highly selective institutions that aspire to academic excellence. My experience at both Wesleyan and Dartmouth is consistent with what you have observed at Swarthmore. I wish this were not true but sadly football, and the culture that surrounds it, is antithetical to the academic mission of colleges such as ours. This is really a national problem and it is a good thing that you are taking leadership on the issue. A close examination of intercollegiate athletics within the Ivy League would point to other sports in which the same phenomenon is apparent. In any event, I thought you would be glad to hear a few words of encouragement on this difficult issue."

Dean Furstenberg and President Wright have both made statements today (Dec. 10) about the letter, and they, together with Athletic Director Josie Harper, have met with the coaches of Dartmouth's teams to assure them that the opinions expressed in the letter do not reflect Dartmouth's approach to athletics, and that the relationship between the Athletic Department and the Office of Admissions is strong and healthy.

Dean Furstenberg's statement:

"I am very sorry that remarks I made in a private December 2000 letter to the President of Swarthmore College will offend and disappoint people I care about and who, as I do, care about Dartmouth and our student athletes. I have great respect for our Athletic Program and the coaches and students who represent the College so well. This was a private communication to a professional colleague, commenting on a national issue in higher education. I recognize now that the comments I made four years ago were overstated in trying to express support for a friend who found himself under blistering attack for a controversial decision he made.

"The views expressed in that letter do not reflect Dartmouth policy nor do they have any bearing on the manner in which I carry out my responsibilities at the College. At Dartmouth we have chosen to work thoughtfully on the issues surrounding selective admissions and intercollegiate athletics. There is a close working relationship between the Athletic Department and the Admissions Office which I respect because it balances the healthy tension that exists between athletic recruitment and admissions at an academically selective institution. There should be no question about my commitment to these goals and the people involved, or any doubt about our desire to be successful within the guidelines of the Ivy League. I am fully supportive of Dartmouth's Athletic Program and I am proud of the student athletes I have admitted.

"I realize that only time and my continued commitment to these ideals will rebuild the trust that I may have damaged."

-- Karl Furstenberg

President Wright's statement:

"Dear Friends,

"As you are aware, someone has shared with the Valley News a personal letter that Dean of Admissions Karl Furstenberg wrote four years ago to Alfred Bloom, the President of Swarthmore College. I became aware of the letter early in 2001 and I talked to Dean Furstenberg about it. He knows that the views expressed in the letter are not mine and are not those of Dartmouth. I was satisfied then that he understands this. He has since continued to perform his duties as the Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid with professional integrity and aplomb. I have a tremendous professional and personal regard for him and am so pleased with the strength, range, and quality of our students. I also wrote to President Bloom at that time to let him know that the letter did not reflect Dartmouth's views in any ways.

"Dartmouth is proud of its student athletes and all that they accomplish on and off the field. They are an integral part of our community. Student athletes are recent recipients and finalists for the Marshall and Rhodes scholarships, include numerous academic All-Americans, regularly receive prestigious awards at the College including the Barrett Cup and the Dean's Prize, and have been among our valedictorians in recent years. The graduation rate for our student athletes regularly surpasses that of the student body in general. They compete well--and are able and committed members of this community.

"It is the case that the Admissions Office does not always admit every athletic recruit. This is as it should be. Dartmouth has the smallest student body in the Ivy League. The Admissions Office needs to balance the needs of the institution as a whole and needs to look for students who will excel in all that Dartmouth requires of them. There is, and should be, a healthy tension between the Athletic Department and the Admissions Office. But there is also a good working relationship between the two offices, which, in turn, results in the recruitment of extremely talented students. While some people argue that we attach too much of a priority to athletics, others suggest we do not do enough. I believe we have the right balance. I am committed to work with Dean James Larimore and Athletic Director Josie Harper to recruit a new football coach who will provide our players the chance to win and to excel. This is a valued Dartmouth heritage and ambition.

"In the past five years, Dartmouth has improved its athletic facilities with the addition of Scully-Fahey Field, the Boss Tennis Center and Gordon Pavilion, the McLane Family Skiway Lodge, the renovated golf course and Leverone Field House, and, specifically for the football program, the Blackman practice fields. We are about to begin renovations on the Alumni Gymnasium that will significantly expand our recreational fitness and varsity strength training facilities, and we have plans to construct a new soccer competition field. In addition, we have increased coaches' salaries, enhanced our equipment and recruiting budgets, and endowed the Robert L. Blackman Head Football Coaching Position.

"I hope that a four-year old personal letter does not distract us from recognizing Dean Furstenberg's accomplishments and from realizing our ambitions for Dartmouth."

-- James Wright

Thank you for taking the time to read this message, and for your support of Dartmouth and its programs.

William N. Walker
Vice President for Public Affairs
Dartmouth College

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