The athletic director at arguably the most prestigious institution of higher education in America doesn't think the trend of Division I schools building academic-support facilities exclusively for student-athlete use is necessarily a good thing.
Harvard University athletic director Robert L. Scalise said earlier this week that he does not support specialized academic programs geared toward student-athletes.
In an interview with the The Harvard Crimson, Scalise said that specialized academic resources to athletes run counter to Harvard Athletics’ mission. He said Harvard does not offer special academic attention to its athletes because it values their academic contributions to the College.
“It's not a student development kind of direction,” he said. “I actually firmly believe that if we admit people to come here — and people come here for the right reasons and we are reasonable in our time commitments — that specialized academic resources for student-athletes that are not available to all of the students at the school is an unwise direction.”
As reported by the Crimson, other Ivy League schools — Penn, Columbia, Cornell and Brown — provide academic support exclusively for athletes. However, according to the Harvard athletics website, Ivy League “athletes should be treated as other students, receiving nothing more nor less.”
Scalise said he questions the ultimate cost of such "creepage of the big-time approach" at other Ivy League schools. “Harvard and the Ivy League experience is a unique college experience in athletics, because you can compete at the highest level in most of our sports,” he said. “But you get a chance to have an academic experience that's second to none. And you have to decide what that's going to be. It’s different than other places.”
Student-Athlete Advisory Committee co-president Madison J.H. Earle, a senior, said she does not want athletes to gain access to resources not available to their non-athlete peers. Instead, she said she would prefer Harvard to tailor existing academic resources to align with athletes’ schedules — much like the situation Harvard athletics helped establish in 2018 to extend hours offered by Harvard University Health Services’ Counseling and Mental Health Services.
Earle estimated that athletes devote roughly 30 hours per week to their sport, precluding them from taking full advantage of academic resources at Harvard that are ostensibly available to all undergraduates. She said professors’ office hours and sessions at the Academic Resource Center and the Harvard College Writing Center tend to coincide with athletes’ practices and competitions.
“I don't think it is giving athletes any special treatment," Earle said. "I think it's just like leveling the playing field."