I’ll never understand why people like flogging a horse with no heartbeat.

But I digress. The writer, Kristin Butler, opines as follows:

Truly, the ability to hit a golf ball or pull an oar is not a qualification for admission to a top-10 university like Duke; it says next to nothing about a student’s willingness to participate in our academic community.

Administrators know this; a December 2000 report to the Board of Trustees notes that students admitted after intervention from the development or athletics offices “are less well prepared academically and personally to contribute to the intellectual atmosphere at Duke.”

To be fair, administrators are quick to counter that student-athletes graduate at a rate of 94 percent (which is the highest in the ACC). We should all be so lucky to benefit from athletes’ access to preferential course scheduling, personal tutors and summertime study.

This report’s point is well taken: We shouldn’t continue framing this debate in terms of an applicant’s ability to graduate. As Dean of Admissions Christoph Guttentag notes, that’s only at issue in a minority of cases.

Rather, we need to set a much higher standard, one that thinks about student-athletes’ rightful place in the academic and cultural landscape of this University.

To this end, consider that recruited athletes are not only accepted at a different time and by a different standard than the rest of us; some of them are housed, scheduled and even fed apart from their peers.

Is it any surprise, then, that the Lacrosse ad hoc Review Committee noted that the “strict discipline of training and play enforces community” and “social cohesion” among varsity athletes?

And in the aftermath of the rape accusations, we’ve all heard that the “negative aspects of… cohesion is a serious problem that requires resolution.”

So as we define our “resolution” to that “serious problem,” I hope we’ll consider the violence done to our campus culture and to our reputation by these admissions preferences; they are an affront to our academic mission, and they privilege factors entirely unrelated to a student’s ability to succeed.

Just as importantly, I hope that we can come to understand what a recent Chronicle editorial called the “conflict that exists because Duke is both a top-10 academic and Division-I athletic school” for what it really is: a deep social and intellectual divide catalyzed by policies that privilege non-academic credentials above academic ones.

Whew. That was painful. Thoughts before we draft a rebuttal?

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