Is it possible to find anywhere so exquisitely negligent an attitude toward a supposedly severe punishment as exists in the present undergraduate mind toward the man on probation? For utter non-chalance there is nothing like it. Not that the institution is ineffective, for the opposite is known to be true. But the light-hearted air in which one man, not on probation, will attempt to console his delinquent friend, cannot but appeal to the sense of humor. In the minds of the great majority, who are in good standing, probation is but a question of existing for a few months without the privilege of representing the University on teams, casts, or musical clubs. But what a difference in attitude if the afflicted one happens to be a well-known athlete! Immediately there is universal mourning and the football team, crew, or nine, which was so promising a few weeks before, starts for New London or New Haven in an apparently hopeless condition. At this point it might be parenthetically stated that the cause of the commotion is himself considered to be very little to blame. Let us proceed one stage further. Suppose that a substitute on any major sport squad breaks training. At once it is whispered about and the man is disgraced. Indeed, such incidents are so rare that nowadays we seldom if ever hear of them. These three cases represent the facts. From them several instructive conclusions may be drawn.
In the first place it appears that it is a great deal worse to break physical training than it is to break mental training. This is strange, especially when we realize that in material harm to the team (which today is acknowledged to be nearer the undergraduate heart than any other organization) probation far exceeds an occasional forbidden cigar or theatre party. It is far worse to Iose an excellent athlete for a whole season than to let an equally brilliant man break training once or twice a year. The opposition will say that with training a man is put on his honor, and breaking training is equivalent to breaking his word. Hence, the prevailing contempt of the act. This is as it should be. But why the breaking of mental training is any the less contemptible, we fail to understand. Perhaps the weight of moral responsibility is less imminent in the latter case, but the fact that probation permanently deprives the team of services which should be rendered, as well as failure to uphold one half of the academic contract, should more than outweigh any other argument in favor of the present universal levity.
It will, therefore, appear that undergraduate opinion on these two points is exactly the reverse of what it should be. And it is not difficult to calculate the salutary effect of a readjustment. Under the present consensus there is too much temptation for the athlete who feels sure of a position on a team, to lie back and think that he is so necessary that the coaches and others will "baby" him along. As probation is now considered, the displeasure of the Office is by no means synonymous with popular disgrace. Were it so looked on, there would be far fewer athletes on probation.
Already steps have been taken in the right direction. We know of a recent instance where a major sport captain permanently scratched several promising athletes from his preliminary list on account of their being on probation. The result was as anticipated. Each of these men played in the game against Yale. They readily realized the truism that no man is absolutely necessary to any team. Proofs of this statement are within the recollection of almost everyone. But this policy of at once dropping from the squad men who are on probation and neglecting them until their standing is restored, should be pursued in every sport with the utmost vigor. And behind that policy the undergraduates should stand, regarding men on probation, and especially athletes, with the same contempt as they would regard a man who breaks training.