Dartmouth College brought a ray of hope to my life this morning as I read the headlines on Letsrun.com . This fall officials at Dartmouth decided that its overextended athletic department needed to be trimmed down and so they got rid of their swim programs. However, with the efforts of a lot of alumni support, a thoughtful administration, and a few hundred protesting students the decision to cut swimming at Dartmouth was overturned yesterday. For a more detailed account of what happened at Dartmouth to save the program use this link, the rest of this writing will be used by me to once again make a case for saving our own sport at UVM using Dartmouth’s effort as an example.
With the wealth and prestige that comes with an Ivy League school like Dartmouth it is not surprising that UVM simply can’t keep up with its neighbor just down interstate 89. Dartmouth has an undergraduate class of less than 5000 students and yet funds one of the most comprehensive sports programs in the country with 34 varsity sports. This is far beyond what UVM fielded even before the cuts from last year with a much smaller student body.
Though a few years ago UVM was referred to as “public ivy”, the Burlington institution has been struggling to keep up with that distinction. UVM competes against Dartmouth teams often in many sports, though Hockey is the only sport where both schools appear on the same conference roster. Even so it seems like UVM is always trying to measure themselves against Dartmouth. This might not be a bad thing, Dartmouth is a fine institution both academically and athletically and UVM would do well to show folks where they measure up to and in some cases even surpass Dartmouth.
A good start to following in the footsteps of Dartmouth for
UVM would be to reinstate the Men’s Track and Field teams. If the cases are
compared they appear remarkably similar. UVM like Dartmouth was strapped for
cash in an athletic department that is quite vast, and so UVM decided to
announce cuts which would take the school into the future. Parties at both
schools rallied around the cut teams and tried desperately to get their
respective administrations to rethink their decisions. Massive alumni support was
offered in both Hanover and Burlington, and there was much discussion at both
schools about the cuts and what could be done about them. Unfortunately that is
where the similarities appear to end.
Dartmouth officials who explained that the cuts were about money problems pure and simple were more than happy to reverse the decision to cut the swim programs when a suitable fundraising plan to continue the sport was suggested. UVM officials who came to the table with no clear or defensible reasons for the “restructuring” that took place could not be swayed by things such as Alumni/ae support, a proven record of athletic and academic success, and a high in state student participation rate.
Dartmouth’s story is a happy one for people like me who have seen schools such as St. John’s, Bowling Green, and Tulane cut sports teams within the past year. It casts a ray of hope that somewhere in the world of college administrations there are folks willing to listen to the students of both the past and present in order to reach an agreeable middle ground. When the cuts were announced at Dartmouth there was one of the largest student protests in recent memory with 600 students gathering together in support of the cause. That is something we didn’t try at UVM but if it could make a difference we might just try it since reasonable discussion seems to have failed.