The debate continues
To the Editors:
I am writing in response to the recent article detailing a number of
professors' thoughts on the place of athletes (and for that matter, athletics
as a whole) at Bowdoin. Let me first make clear that I believe that academics
are the centerpiece of life at Bowdoin and should undoubtedly remain as
such. We all, as students before anything else, come to Bowdoin for an
education, and it would be a mistake to suggest that any other pursuits
have priority over academic responsibilities. However, I think there are
problems with some of the examples given in the NESCAC study, such as
the use of SAT scores. Bowdoin doesn't even require SAT's for admission,
so why should it use them to judge a student who's already enrolled?
My argument, however, does not revolve around the merits or shortcomings
of the data in the study. My musings instead address the sentiments of
various professors towards student athletes (and athletics as a whole),
and the recent actions taken by the administration and admissions office.
Let's face it, college is not ENTIRELY about academics. If we all marched
in straight lines from our dorms to the dining hall, to classes, and then
to the library, our four years would be entirely useless. We all might
have our periodic tables permanently etched onto the interior of our skulls,
or perhaps the ability to write half-accurate critiques of Finnegan's
Wake (most likely not), but would we have really learned anything? Would
we be able to start and hold a meaningful conversation about anything
other than the merits of democracy?Could we bring real-life experiences
to discussions of academic ideals and as a result evaluate the validity
of various theories? Would we learn about teamwork and unified progress
towards an established goal?
The answer is clearly no. What students do outside of the classroom is
one of the most important aspects of college. The lessons learned in social,
club, and yes, athletic activities, are vital to the development of students.
To be called a well-rounded college student is a high compliment, and
is something we all should strive for. Conversely, to suggest that a student
is "too well-rounded to get a grip on" implies that having serious
aspirations outside the academic sphere is a mistake.
In becoming professors, instructors at Bowdoin have clearly chosen academics
as their vocation. As such, it is understandable that they value intellectual
pursuits above all else. As students, I would venture that we all respect
that decision, just as we hope that professors would respect our decision
to include athletics as a significant part of our lives. I would also
expand this statement to include the idea of athletic success, not simply
participation. It would be a waste of money (and other resources) to maintain
intercollegiate athletics simply for exercise or diversion. Student athletes
at Bowdoin should be encouraged not only to play sports, but also to play
to win-just as professors encourage students in the classroom to excel
beyond mediocrity and a passing grade to a higher level of academic pursuit.
The measures adopted by the administration and admissions office (which
limit the number of "rated" athletes at Bowdoin) unduly cripple
Bowdoin's athletic programs and at the same time do not guarantee any
substantial academic improvements. The measures limit the student athlete's
ability to excel and succeed, not only in terms of raising a NESCAC trophy
or earning an NCAA tournament berth, but also regarding personal and team
goals. Competing on a team under such restrictions is akin to trying to
write a complete plot synopsis of a novel that's had the last few chapters
torn out. You can apply yourself as hard and long as you want and get
some of it right, but it will never be complete and you'll never gain
any real satisfaction.
Most Bowdoin athletes play because they love their sports, but there's a limit to that love. Take away their ability to compete for meaningful goals, and they'll eventually recognize that they can't win. Maybe it'll be next year, or maybe in three, but it will happen. So student athletes will dial it down a notch, lower their athletic aspirations, and maybe spend a little more time in the library, or maybe not. But what real lesson will they learn: one of success or failure? Will those student athletes be better prepared for life after college? And will Bowdoin be a better place for limiting their hopes and goals because they were not just students, but student athletes? There's no easy answer, but I believe that these questions need to be considered in addressing any perceived academic discrepancies between student athletes and others.
Alex Duncan '03
To the Editors:
I recently received a letter signed by several hundred students, faculty,
and members of the Bowdoin College community expressing a deep and profound
concern about climate change.
Climate change is a serious and growing problem. Global temperatures
have increased by approximately one degree over the last 100 years. According
to the scientific community, it is likely that much of this warming is
due to human activities that have increased atmospheric greenhouse gas
concentrations. This warming is expected to accelerate: the best predictions
forecast an increase in global temperatures of anywhere from 2.5 to 10
degrees by the end of the next century.
According to a report recently prepared by the National Academy of Sciences,
such warming could well have serious adverse societal and ecological impacts,
including droughts, floods, sea level rise, and far reaching changes to
Addressing this problem involves developing a national energy policy
that increases our energy efficiency and develops our renewable energy
resources. With the Senate's nearly even division of Democrats and Republicans,
any progress on this front will be forged at the center. I have joined
Senator Charles Schumer, a Democrat from New York, in proposing a balanced,
bi-partisan energy plan that increases efficiency, promotes alternative
energy sources, and protects the environment.
Our best strategy for meeting energy needs and reducing greenhouse gas
emissions, particularly in the short term, is to increase conservation.
If we had to meet all needs by increasing supply alone, we'd have to build
one power plant a week every week for the next 20 years. While additional
power plants are necessary, we won't need to build nearly so many if we
adopt good conservation measures.
If every American household were to replace just four 100-watt incandescent
light bulbs with compact flourescent bulbs, we'd eliminate the need to
build 30 new power plants. By adopting new efficiency standards for refrigerators
and air conditioners, we can eliminate the need to build 170 power plants.
By passing the Energy Efficiency Buildings Act, we can eliminate the need
for even more.
U.S. businesses, municipalities, and educational institutions are finding
that investments in energy efficiency cut power bills and provide rapid
payback while reducing our dependence on fossil fuels. Even upgrading
the light bulbs in public buildings can save thousands of dollars annually.
That's a lot of money to save just by changing light bulbs!
We also need to further develop our renewable energy resources. As co-chair
of the Senate Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Caucus, I have been
a leader in promoting renewable energy technologies. I led a successful
effort to pass an amendment to the FY 2002 Budget Resolution that would
increase funding for renewable energy and other measures to reduce greenhouse
gas emissions. The amendment provides $4.5 billion over the next ten years
to bolster essential federal investments in renewable energy technologies,
climate change research, and other essential programs. I was the first
Republican to cosponsor this amendment. In passing it, we sent a strong
message that theUnited States Senate takes the issue of climate change
Energy conservation and renewable energy technologies will reduce the
pressure to drill in wilderness areas while increasing our nation's energy
independence. I am working for tax incentives that encourage the production
and purchase of cars powered by fuels other than gasoline, so-called alternative-fueled
vehicles. Estimates show that those incentives could conserve many times
the amount of energy we would obtain by drilling in Alaska's Arctic National
When combined with increased fuel economy standards for automobiles,
which I also support, we could significantly reduce our reliance on foreign
oil without drilling a single drop from the Arctic Refuge.
We have a lot of work to do in order to create a comprehensive energy plan for America. I hope to work with the President and Congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle to draft a plan that will garner broad bipartisan support and create a secure energy future for America. By doing so, we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, save millions of barrels of oil and billions of dollars, reduce the need to erect new power plants, help our economy, and preserve our natural environment.
Susan M. Collins
To the Editors:
I read Ludwig Rang's article on "Returning to the U.S., a nation
in shock" [December 7, 2001]. In reference to the Kennedy assassination,
he mentioned the Dallas schoolchildren who clapped when they heard the
news. I have been refuting that old story for years.
I was living in Dallas and was out shopping that morning. There were
many school-age children dressed in Sunday clothing around, and I asked
a salesclerk why this was. She replied that the children were going to
see the parade when Kennedy drove through downtown. I was very impressed
that everyone was dressed up for the event.
Later, when my husband called to tell me to turn on the TV, I sat and
cried with everyone else. Many of us living in Dallas were not Kennedy
supporters, but we greatly mourned the death in our city of our young
president. The children who clapped were not told the whole story and
were clapping because school was dismissed early.