Faculty Votes to Alter Sports Requirement for Fall of 2003

After nearly six years of deliberations, the faculty passed an athletic proposal sponsored by the Athletic Council that will allow upperclassmen to forgo a term of athletics between Upper and Senior winter. The newly approved plan is a compromise between the current requirement that requires students to participate in athletics every term and the more lenient proposal put forth by the Student Council, which called for students to be freed of two terms of athletic involvement during their upperclass years. The revised requirement will be implemented next year. Acting Head of School Rebecca Sykes hopes that the new requirement will fulfill its original intention of reducing stress on upperclassmen. “I think that Uppers and Seniors will have an opportunity to reduce their stress,” she said, “However, there is no solution to stress that does not require an individual to exercise judgment and to make choices.” Many other faculty members expressed their support with the passing of the new requirement, as the vast majority voted in favor of the proposal. Chair of the Psychology Department Carol Israel remarked that the “widespread faculty support” was due in part because “[the faculty] had been talking about it for a long time [and the decision had come] with a lot of thought.” Student Council President Kanyi Maqubela ’03 responded enthusiastically to the passing of the proposal, “I’m glad that the faculty has acknowledged students’ opinions… Although it wasn’t exactly what we asked for, it’s encouraging to know that the faculty listens to what the students say.” He continued, “Although the Student Council’s proposal as such was not voted on, [our] presentation [from Fall term] was taken into account and strongly influenced this proposal.” Upper Representative Will Scharf ’04 agreed with Maqubela, adding, “I think it’s great that we got any reduction [to the requirements] at all, considering the amount of opposition there was.” The faculty voted last term that a change to the current requirement should be instated. This term, the faculty was offered only two options: passing the Athletic Council’s compromise proposal or offering no change to the requirement. The latter would have provided faculty members the option to go back on their decision to force a change to the athletic requirement. Faculty members were not allowed to vote on the Student Council proposal, as it was not one of the choices on the faculty ballot. Mrs. Sykes stated that the Athletic Council’s proposal was the most viable compromise between all the opinionated parties on this issue. The new requirement will undergo a two-year trial period and changes will be made if necessary. “We still need to determine how we will define success [of the program during the trial period], but we have some time to work this out,” Mrs. Sykes said. Maqubela added, “The future of the proposal is based not only on faculty, but also strongly on student feedback. Students need to be willing and eager to offer honest feedback on whether it works or not.” An alteration to the current athletic requirement was first considered in 1996, when many members of the school community complained about student workload and requirements. In response to these widespread concerns, Dean of Studies Vincent Avery requested that a task force be formed. A year later, a Grade Task Force was formed, charged with examining academics and athletics as they pertained to each grade. After the Task Force made its findings public, Dean Avery then appointed an Athletic Task Force, chaired by Chair of the Classics Department Nicholas Kip’60, to specifically study the athletic program. The Athletic Council, chaired by Ms. Fenton, was then created in 2001 to examine the current athletic requirement policy The plan to rework the athletic program was picked up again in April 2001 when a team led by former Student Council President Spencer Willig, ’02 and Council members Chris Hughes ’02 and Dmitry Serov ’02 presented their new sports requirement proposal to the faculty. The proposal of last year’s council granted upperclassmen the option of forgoing athletics for one term in both the Upper and Senior years in exchange for participation in an “authorized extracurricular activity.” Although the proposal addressed the need to alleviate stress and provided students with the time to pursue their own interests, a vote on the proposal was postponed by Head of School Barbara Landis Chase. This year’s Student Council again aimed at creating a new athletic requirement early this year. The council conducted a school-wide survey, revealing widespread support of a reduced athletic requirement within the student body. The Council then issued a recommendation to the faculty at this fall’s School Congress that the faculty pass the athletic requirement identical to the one the previous Student Council had presented. Despite much discussion, no vote was held because of the regulation that such a vote may only be held at faculty meetings. This lack of decisive action on the proposal left both students and faculty feeling frustrated. Dean Avery justified the delays by explaining that because of “strong passions on either side of the question, [I want people] to take time to feel as if they have the opportunity to be heard and are not rushed.”