At M.I.T., 8 sports eliminated

Teams cut were skiing, competitive pistol, golf, wrestling, and men and women’s ice hockey and gymnastics. Via the New York Times:

The announcement ended several weeks of meetings and student hand-wringing over which of M.I.T.’s 41 Division III varsity teams would be cut. Being an innovative lot, M.I.T. students looked for ways to save programs, including fund-raising and protests. Some disgruntled students even kidnapped Tim the Beaver, the institute’s mascot, demanding that all 41 teams be kept. (The student playing Tim was released unharmed, although the costume’s head eventually ended up on the John Harvard statue in Harvard Yard.)

“These programs contribute to our ever-precious admissions yield, which in turn contributes to our esteemed public perception and high national ranking,” Ethan Solomon, a second-year student, wrote in an opinion article for The Tech, M.I.T.’s student newspaper. “Indirectly, these factors may influence alumni donation rates, which further influence our national ranking.”

Note that the first paragraph I pulled makes M.I.T. sound quirky and fun, while the second suggests ranking, not the suddenly teamless athletes or school pride is the main concern. Actually, the quote is not representative of Solomon’s full article, which is worth reading for its call for active student involvement in budget cut decisions:

Here’s a crazy idea: maybe we do need to micromanage the budget cuts, Provost Reif. Maybe it is worthwhile to see if some departments can dig a little deeper to subsidize [athletic programs]. Maybe we should devise a smarter alumni outreach strategy. Maybe we should consolidate personnel and resources for separate offices with similar missions. Being passive is the only thing that stands no chance of saving sports. Come up with ideas and be vocal about it. If the administration is smart, they’ll listen to us.

I wholeheartedly agree with the activist approach, but I have to state my distaste for the “it will hurt our rankings which will hurt admissions which will hurt donations” line of thought earlier in the article. Part of Solomon’s thesis is that universities shouldn’t just imitate others mindlessly and relying so heavily on yield rates as a metric of quality strikes me as a waste of time. If M.IT. wants to save its sports, great, but do it for the pistol team fans, not for those who will later pin their self-worth and donations on M.I.T’s yield rate or ranking.

Any other schools cutting full teams? Stanford hasn’t yet, but the Athletic Department did cut some jobs.

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