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Harvard to Launch Study of Athletics Department

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 Jonah S. Berger and Molly C. McCafferty, Crimson Staff Writers

Harvard is launching a review of the “culture” and “structure” of its athletics department, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Science Claudine Gay announced in an email to athletes, coaches, and other athletics staff Thursday.

“Rooted in the Harvard College mission and our Ivy League principles, this study will engage our community to learn about our student athlete experience, the culture of our programs, and the structure of our department," Gay wrote.

The email leaves details of the nature of the audit and its motivations largely unexplained. FAS Spokesperson Anna G. Cowenhoven declined to provide further information about the study.

Gay wrote in the email that Athletics Director Robert L. Scalise and Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana, among others, will serve on an “advisory committee” overseeing the review of the athletic department. The group plans to solicit input throughout the study using surveys and interviews, and will conclude its work by releasing a public report sometime this spring.

FAS has also enlisted the help of Mercer, a consulting firm with “deep expertise in the study of culture” and “organizational best practices” to conduct the study, according to the email.

Though Gay did not explicitly state what prompted the review, she wrote it comes during “a moment in higher education when the role of athletics is the subject of much discussion and review.”

“We engage in this study to set our aspirations for the support of athletics at Harvard,” she wrote.

In March, dozens of wealthy parents and college athletics coaches across the country were arrested in a scheme to fraudulently secure admission for their children to top universities through bribes and falsified standardized test answers. Though Harvard was not implicated, individuals at other elite universities, including Yale and Stanford, have already pled guilty to charges.

But controversy over athletics and admissions practices has not completely evaded Harvard. In July, the University dismissed its head fencing coach Peter Brand after an independent inquiry found that his real estate transactions with the family of current and former athletes violated Harvard’s conflict of interest policy. A federal grand jury is also currently investigating Brand.

“We are motivated to join this discussion by a desire to reinvigorate our Ivy League principles for a new generation of Harvard students,” Gay wrote.

— Staff writer Jonah S. Berger can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @jonahberger98.

—Staff writer Molly C. McCafferty can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @mollmccaff.

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