A New Direction For Athletics — But Which One?

Athletics Complex

In response to the scandal over admissions and athletic qualifications at Harvard and across the nation, the University has instituted a variety of policies requiring proof of athletic prowess as part of the athletic recruitment process, according to Athletics Director Robert L. Scalise.

The reforms, which also include increased conflict of interest training, come as Scalise is preparing to step down from his position. Looking forward, we are encouraged that there is room for a new direction in the Athletics Department along a number of dimensions, including the strengthening of these kinds of processes to prevent fraud. Beyond that, we also hope to see improvement in regards to gender parity and multiple instances of sexual misconduct in the department.

In addition, the Athletics Department should consider the efficacy of conflict of interest measures, given the unambiguous nature of the infractions in the admissions scandal. These policies, as well as the fact-checking processes and the way in which the department approaches its new sanctions enforcement policy, are further areas to consider for improvement.

Needless to say, these are vast domains that span across many fields under the purview of the Athletics Department, each with its specific challenges and opportunities. However, before considering any specifics and implementing any changes, the University must reflect and clarify the role of athletics at Harvard, since it is impossible to move to more detailed processes without an explicit, well-understood goal.


Currently, the Harvard Athletics mission statement offers two broad objectives: “Education through Athletics” and “Build[ing] Community and Pride in Harvard.” More specifically, the department values “the lessons that have long been taught by athletic participation” and aims to “[build] community through the engagement of students, faculty, staff, and alumni.” However, these high-minded goals still leave many questions unanswered.

How should student-athletes balance their roles in athletics and at the College more broadly, and how should they be evaluated for admissions? How do athletics contribute to student life and culture at the College? How should the Athletics Department reconcile the need for socioeconomic diversity with existing entry barriers in certain sports? What role should coaches and the department play in an admissions process that is supposed to be “the same” for athletes and for other students?

We do not have definitive answers to these questions. In fact, we may not be informed to make these decisions, but we believe that the answers to these questions should form the basis of the new direction that Scalise’s successor should pursue. As Scalise will continue to advise Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Claudine Gay until 2021, we hope he can share his institutional knowledge in this search. That knowledge, coupled with a sincere desire to clarify the place of athletics at the University achieve concrete improvements in each of these domains, should animate the search for a candidate well-equipped to take on these challenges and lead the Athletics Department in a new era.

This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.