Letter to the Editor: Athletic scholarship does not mean poor student

To the Editor:

Many professors and students are quick to criticize the Patriot League’s recent move to give the football team merit-based scholarship because this would result in Bucknell University getting “farther and farther away from our academic mission.” While no one outwardly said it in the paper last week, the general concern of the detractors for granting these scholarships appears to be that the quality of student at Bucknell would decrease if these scholarships were granted. With this subsequent decline in quality of student, a Bucknell education potentially could not be as highly regarded as it once was. Would a Bucknell education now suddenly be lowered by having these lowly scholarshiped athletes attend classes at Bucknell? I tend to think not. Additionally, to infer that the football players and other scholarshiped athletes are somehow academically inferior to the NARPs (Non-Athlete Regular People) is both insulting and shameful. The amount of time and effort that goes into playing a Division I sport may take a toll on student-athletes’ grades, but to infer that these scholarships would bring in a less-than-capable student in general is a groundless accusation rooted in the anti-athlete sentiments held by some of our faculty and administration.

The editorial last week points out that the Bucknell administration is choosing money over education in granting these scholarships. To say that offering three to five scholarships to student athletes per year (.03 percent to .05 percent of an incoming first-year class) is a choice of money over education is a ridiculous claim. By the looks of all the construction going on in the estimated $24 million effort in creating numerous new academic buildings, such as Academic West and Academic East, it would seem to me that academics at Bucknell is not taking a back seat to anything. Providing an excellent education has, and will, continue to be the defining feature of Bucknell University, no matter how many scholarships are given to football players.

Additionally, I find it ironic that last week’s issue also covered the issue of diversity at this school. The athletics department, especially the football team, contributes to a large part of the socio-economic, racial and religious diversity on this campus. As Coach Susan pointed out, these scholarships will allow the football team to reach out to more middle-class kids (a type of student lacking at this school). Offering opportunities to someone who would not have been able to attend Bucknell just by looking at high school grades (like me) because s/he has something to offer athletically to the school will only enhance a diverse experience at Bucknell. These scholarships would not only improve the level of inter-conference competitiveness of the football team, but would also allow for Bucknell education to reach a different demography.

Tim Bolte

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