Monday, February 5, 2007

The Vanderbilt of the North

John "Junior" Feinstein wrote a story in yesterday's Washington Post about a Harvard Basketball player who will have to forgo the final 10 basketball games of his college career because of Harvard's "8 Semester" rule. The rule, as summarized by Feinstein, says "very simply, that once you enroll you have eight semesters to graduate. They don't have to be consecutive, but that's all you get: eight semesters; four courses a semester; 32 courses to graduate."

I have sent emails out to friends who attended Harvard to try and get an explanation as to why this rule exists in the first place and what (if any) validity the rule has (independent of athletics). I bring this up because Vanderbilt recently lost out on a top-tier transfer student because the school does not allow mid-year transfers. Vanderbilt is also the only SEC school that does not allow in-coming freshman to start school early in order to participate in spring practice. I have a serious problem with not allowing mid-year transfers because I think it is arbitrary. If someone is able to meet Vanderbilt's stringent admissions requirements, and can help the school athletically, there is no reason not to grant a mid-season transfer. The academic integrity of the school is not compromised, and the Basketball team would certainly benefit. Who, in that scenario, loses?

As for allowing freshman to report early, I understand Vanderbilt's policy and I agree with it. If you are a school where academics and "student life" are taken seriously, then having "freshman" wandering around campus solely to participate in spring practice, without any sort of common orientation or freshman experience, seems ill-advised. I am not so naive as to think that football players are "normal" students, but by not allowing freshman to report early, the university is trying to maintain as much integrity of the "student" aspect of the "student-athlete" as possible.

Vanderbilt is not like every other SEC school, and should not behave as such. Not allowing freshman to report early because the administration views every student as a student, not a player who periodically attends class and eats in the mess hall, honors Vanderbilt's commitment to compete on their own terms. I don't believe the same can be said about the policy regarding mid-year transfers. A mid-year transfer has been exposed to the college lifestyle before and the assimilation process to a new place (while never easy) would seem to be less severe. As principled as the decision not to allow freshman to report early is, that is how pig-headed the decision not to allow mid-year transfers is. Harvard's "8 semester" rule seems to fall in this latter category. By punishing kids who have decided to attend a school where academics and athletics are both given substantial weight, Vanderbilt and the Vanderbilt of the North appear openly hostile to athletics to what...prove a point? As much as anything, I would think that such burdensome (and seemingly unnecessary) rules would dissuade prospective student athletes from choosing a Vanderbilt or our northern counterpart. Being principled is one thing, but why be principled without a point?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

In an otherwise sensible and interesting blog, your obsession with "mid-year transfers" is a little bizarre. The policy is what the policy is, and tantrums from fans will not change it. If anything, it confirms for the university that the ONLY reason people are interested in it is as a backdoor way to avoid scrutiny for athletes. As for Prince -- let's just say that word on the street was that his academic record was a joke the first time around, and he didn't exactly use his time at Arizona to become a better student. And his basketball record speaks for itself. Having him at UT is the best possible gift (revenge?) for Vanderbilt fans.