Dartmouth College has insisted that eliminating five sports is mostly about saving money but some Asian athletes claim the cuts were possibly discriminatory and serve to “perpetuate anti-Asian prejudices.”
The school in July announced that it was getting rid of men’s and women’s swimming and diving, men’s and women’s golf, and men’s lightweight rowing. The school said the cuts would help address a projected $150 million financial deficit due to the coronavirus and give them more flexibility in admissions.
But more than a dozen Asian athletes signed a letter earlier this week complaining that the cuts target sports popular with Asians, noting that they will impact half of all Asians athletes at Dartmouth. A total of 30 Asian athletes are impacted.
They want the Board of Trustees to do an independent investigation into the process that led to the cuts.
“To ensure a fair process, the Athletic Department should publicly release any and all analysis, research, metrics, internal correspondence, or findings of fact that went into this decision,” the letter said. “The administration owes the Dartmouth community, at the very least, the level of transparency widely employed by state and federal regulatory agencies with regard to similar decision-making processes.”
Several students who signed the letter said it has them questioning whether they are valued at Dartmouth.
“It indirectly sends the message to current athletes that they less valued than non-Asian athletes and deters Asian athletes in the future from competing for Dartmouth,” said Tim Park, who signed the letter and is a member of the swim team. He said he is considering transferring.
A spokesperson for Dartmouth, Diana Lawrence, said the board had received the letter and is “carefully considering it.”
Along with a letter, the athletes and their families formed, Save Dartmouth Swim & Dive, which is calling for the reinstatement of the sport. They are demanding the college find other ways to address its budget shortfall and said they have heard from the larger alumni community willing to withhold donations in the wake of the cuts.
“This decision to cut these athletic programs is a threat to the integrity, diversity, and inclusiveness of the entire Dartmouth community,” the group said on its website. “And they will have national implications, setting a precedent for athletic programs at other institutions to limit opportunities for people from marginalized and underrepresented groups.”
The athletes already took their case to the school’s Office of Institutional Diversity and the Athletic Department which dismissed their claim.
A similar controversy happened when Brown University announced in May that it was cutting nine sports. But after an outcry, it reinstated its men’s varsity track and cross country programs in June. The school president said dropping the teams to club status would have had a negative effect on efforts to build and maintain diversity on campus, particularly for African Americans.
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