Marvin Chun — Athletes on Campus

(Image: Harvard Yale Football Game taken by Michael Marsland)

LC: In a YDN piece last year, they looked at what they called “plus factors” in admissions, and I know that athletics and admissions are not strictly your area, but the data in the piece suggested that the student body is split on how recruited athletes should be treated in admissions. I am wondering what your view of the role of varsity athletes is on campus and what you might say to someone who is skeptical about the recruiting practices. 

MC: Well I would say we should deeply value the presence of varsity athletics on campus, and having such athletes on campus really adds to the community. Athletics is just one of the ways that a student can excel and demonstrate excellence, and it’s a form of excellence that we truly have to value for the following reasons. 

One of course is that athletics requires tremendous discipline. The kind of schedules and balancing that these students have to do is extraordinary and prepares them very well for excellence beyond Yale. So if you look at a lot of our very successful alumni, many of them have been varsity athletes, partly because of, I think, the discipline that allowed them to be athletes in the first place. They carry it through college and they certainly carry it to their positions beyond school. Getting an 800 on an SAT test is of course a credential as well, but being able to work on a team, practice, train, and achieve national level performance is another great credential that, in the real world, probably matters even more than what grade you got in a particular course or on a particular exam. So I just think that the teamwork, the discipline, and the leadership opportunities that athletics provide are all great. 

And personally just one reason I love athletics is that the measurement of achievement in athletics is very clear. Excellence in singing or in other fields is sometimes hard to define, but it’s very defined in athletics. Just as a sports fan, it’s what I love so much about athletics. 

And finally I’ll just add that it teaches resilience, and that’s the most important thing we have to teach at Yale, and it’s just very hard at a place where people see an A- as a fail, but athletes, they’re losing games frequently, and it really builds character. And if you asked me what the best way to build resilience in students is, I would say it’s sports. It’s hard to find a better way. Science is another area, well there are ways to do it in every area. It’s just very clearly defined in athletics. And then of course they get lots of support from their teams, and they all have very strong coaching staff and in a sense they have more mentors, perhaps more than the average student has to help accommodate for those challenges they face. 

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