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A review of the Harvard Athletics Department released Friday by Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean Claudine Gay found that while the Department provides a strong sense of community, many staff and student-athletes feel a sense of removal from FAS as a whole.
The study, commissioned by Gay last fall, found that the vast majority of student-athletes view their team experience and their coaches favorably. Still, athletes also reported significant time constraints, with just 41 percent of surveyed athletes saying they “have time to relax and unwind during the week.”
Just 40 percent of athletes said they feel they “get to take advantage of all the community experiences that Harvard has to offer.” Forty-five percent said they feel like they are active in their residential community.
“I found in their words compelling testimony of the unique power of sport to forge strong bonds and a deep sense of belonging, and about the valuable role of our coaches as mentors in their Harvard journeys,” Gay wrote to athletics affiliates. “Our students were equally candid about their struggles. They do not always feel well understood by their non-athlete peers or well supported in their efforts to integrate their athletic commitments with their academic passions and responsibilities.”
Athletics Department coaches and staff reported feeling a sense of purpose in their work. The vast majority of Athletics Department staff said their job gives them “a sense of meaning and purpose” and that they are “motivated to go beyond what is normally expected to help Harvard be successful.”
The report also found a disconnect between the Department and the rest of FAS, and it recommended strengthening DHA’s bonds with FAS and the College. Just 22 percent of DHA staff members said there is a “high level of collaboration and partnership between Harvard College’s faculty and staff and Harvard Athletics’ coaches and staff.” Less than half of staff members said they thought “athletics is considered an important part of the college experience at Harvard.”
“We need more opportunities for faculty, staff, coaches, and students to talk to each other about our priorities, our aspirations, and the barriers we confront in supporting our student-athletes,” Gay wrote. “This process is a first step to building stronger relationships among all those who are committed to the success of our students.”
Students and athletics staff both reported that professors do not always help students balance athletics and academics. Forty-one percent of student-athletes said their professors help them “balance my athletic interests and my academic responsibilities.” Just 33 percent of athletics staff members said they thought professors did a good job helping student-athletes do so.
The report made four recommendations, including that Harvard engage in “community building efforts that enhance students’ physical, mental, and social wellbeing.”
“We have a strong foundation to build on in our shared commitment to the success of our student-athletes, to the health and well-being of our students more broadly, and to Harvard,” Gay wrote. “I am excited to participate and to do my part to make those efforts successful.”
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