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Athletics Study to Review Departmental Culture, Director Scalise Says

The Murr Center houses a number of Athletics Department administrative offices.
The Murr Center houses a number of Athletics Department administrative offices. By Abdur B. Rehman
By Devin B. Srivastava, Crimson Staff Writer

The ongoing study of Harvard's Athletics Department will largely examine the department’s culture, Athletics Director Robert L. Scalise said in an interview Friday.

The review, first announced last month by Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Science Claudine Gay, is being conducted by outside consulting firm Mercer. Scalise and other top administrators including Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana are on the advisory committee overseeing the study, which will also include input from students and staff.

Harvard is pursuing the study this year in light of the “rapidly approaching” centennial anniversary of the first Athletics director being named, which will take place in 2026, according to a joint interview between Scalise and Gay published in the Harvard Gazette, a University-run publication.

Gay has previously denied that the study stems from the controversy surrounding former fencing head coach Peter Brand, who sold his home to the family of a prospective student. Scalise said Friday that Gay told coaches that the review is unrelated to the scandals.

Scalise also said the main topic of the study will be athletics culture, which can be positive or negative.

“With respect to the culture, there are some very powerful, positive things that get created when people work together to try to accomplish a common goal. There's a bonding that takes place,” Scalise said. “Sometimes, that can go a little bit sideways and there can be some negative elements.”

“What makes it go right?” Scalise asked. “What do we do if things are not on track?”

The review will work to determine how the Athletics Department can ensure its culture does not mirror athletics culture as it is depicted in pop culture, he said.

“The pop culture in our society has depicted — I'll call it frat boy, you know, jock behavior,” Scalise said. “We're trying to not have that here.”

Scalise said the study will also address both the structure of the Athletics Department and the “student-athlete experience.” Specifically, the review will examine the way varsity athletes navigate the dual identities of a student at a top-ranked university and a Division I athlete.

“What do we do that makes being a top-notch scholar and a top-notch athlete — what do we do that makes it hard to do both things?” Scalise said. “Because we believe that doing both is not mutually exclusive.”

The review will also look at how to increase interaction between athletes and other College students so that they can learn from each other.

“The beauty of Harvard is that we bring in people with all different backgrounds. There isn't just one size fits all that gets people into Harvard,” Scalise said. “What we need to do down the road is all to learn how to work together, to respect our differences, but then respect one another and work together to solve problems that are bigger than any one group or one of us can solve.”

Though Scalise will step down from his position on June 30, a decision he announced earlier this month, he will continue to advise Gay on the study.

—Staff writer Devin B. Srivastava can be reached at devin.srivastava@thecrimson.com.

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