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The meeting of the Union was not as well attended as it should have been, less than one hundred being present. Mr. Saunders occupied the chair, and the question was as announced, that of "Athletics at Harvard."
Mr. Lowell opened for the affirmative, and gave statistics to show that the average length of life of boating men is greater than that of others. The scholarship of athletes is not necessarily poor, as is shown by the example of the '70 nine, which averaged over seventy percent. Moreover athletic training gives a man self-reliance, perseverance and "push." Athletics acts as a safety valve for some who would otherwise waste their energies in less laudable pursuits.
Mr. Noble for the negative gave his view of the proper interpretation of the question, and defended the action of the faculty, on the ground that athletics tended to become a specialty.
Mr. F. J. Coolidge followed for the affirmative, giving interesting statistics in regard to the duration of life of boating men and other athletes.
Mr. Carpenter, in the negative, thought that the old system had done its work and condemned it as tending to make sports exclusive, specialized, scientific and to highly developed in certain directions. If the affirmative wish to defend the old system they must in the end defend "Yale method."
The debate being then thrown open to the house, Mr. Chapman, '83, spoke in favor of handicap races at athletic meetings, and when his time was extended advised an oversight of men in training, to prevent them from entering races when not in condition.
Mr. Agassiz upheld professional coaches, and was answered by Mr. Loeb. A word was spoken by Mr. Lloyd in favor of working boats on the river and class nines, and then the chair called for an expression of opinion from Prof.'s Lanman and Sargent who were present.
Prof. Sargent made a brief address, in which he called attention to the fact that the pressure brought against athletics from outside was not by the scholarly men, but by the athletic men, who realize that they had spent too much time in athletics while in college. He himself had anticipated the present general discussion three years ago. The athletic committee of the faculty assume to control the whole athletic interests of the college. Moreover, the faculty have recognized athletics as an important factor in a college training. The faculty committee were selected on account of special interest in the subject on the part of each one of them.
Prof. Lanman then made a few remarks, which every man in the college ought to have heard. The tendency in athletics is twofold. Among professionals, games as such are becoming scientific and business-like. In colleges interest in general athletics is becoming more universal. In art, the development of a people is not marked by a few exceptional works, but by the widespread dissemination of artistic taste, as among the Chinese and Japanese. In the same way the athletic development of a college should be estimated, not by the best single records, but by the extent of general athletic excellence throughout the college as a whole.
Mr. Lanman dwelt especially on the moral effect of athletics. He would fear for the future of a listless boy; but if one had some object to work for - such as was furnished by boating, baseball and foot-ball - it would prove the best possible safeguard against drunkenness and the kindred evils which beset a college life.
The general opinion of the meeting seemed to be in favor of the new departure in athletics on the part of the faculty.
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