Attack on Fencing Has No Grounding in Fact

Letter to the Editors

To the editors:

Unfortunately, fencing has been victimized by uninformed attitudes because few people really know much about the sport (Comment, “Harvard Sporting Diversity”, Feb. 27). Since Brian A. Finn ’06 chose as his target the women’s fencing squad, I will address the facts as they pertain to our women:

1. Of the 10 women who are currently on the varsity fencing team at Harvard, only two attended private schools, and only two have been admitted through recruiting this year.

2. Not a single athlete on our squad has been trained by their parents or prep-school. The vast majority of the fencing team attended public high schools and developed their superior abilities by joining fencing clubs. Talent has to be earned through hard work and determination, and can’t be bought or handed-down by a parent.

3. Fully half of our women athletes are minorities and come from diverse socio-economic backgrounds. In addition, our coaching staff is a diverse group including an Israeli Jew and son of Holocaust survivors, a Chinese expatriate and recent emigre, and a Filipino-American who spent the early years of his life in an internment camp.

In point of fact, six of the women (a third of the squad) who will represent the U.S. at the World Fencing Championship this year (none of whom, unfortunately, are Harvard students) are of minority backgrounds, including five African-Americans. Most of them come from middle and lower socio-economic backgrounds. They had access to fencing facilities and coaching because the fencing community promotes, encourages and supports minority involvement in the sport.

Athletic recruiting is not a “backdoor” to allow the admission committee to increase the number of minorities at Harvard. Athletic recruiting is, and always has been, about recognizing the value of athletic brilliance as equal in value to other talents, be they academic, musical or otherwise.

Peter Brand

Feb. 27, 2003

The writer is the head coach of Harvard Varsity Fencing.