In an eponymous article, Adam Schauer asks, “Should Swarthmore join NCAA Division I athletics?” The answer is an unequivocal “no.”
Swarthmore is the ideal liberal arts college: students are focused on academics for the majority of their day, and they spend a couple of hours each afternoon doing sports. Students at Swarthmore are intellectually curious, and their top priority in college is academics. It isn’t like that everywhere; it is unique and wonderful, and it’s something that we should all cherish and preserve. Joining Division I would change this culture for the worse.
For the purposes of this letter, I researched the past five years of competition history for all of Swarthmore’s athletic teams. Across the five seasons for each of the twelve men’s and women’s game sports, Swarthmore won 52 percent of the games. Across the eight men’s and women’s swimming, cross country, and indoor and outdoor track teams, in 40 seasons they sent a total of 16 athletes to the Division III national meet. In its entire history, Swarthmore teams have won four national championships, all in men’s tennis.
With the current student-athlete population, Swarthmore would not be even remotely competitive in Division I. To be competitive, Swarthmore would have to accept different students, who are more focused on athletics than academics. At Williams College, my alma mater and previous place of work, the classroom feel can be quite different — one Williams professor famously called it “a Nike camp with enrichment classes.” Even so, and despite winning over 75 percent of its games, and winning 36 national championships in eleven different sports, Williams has remained in Division III, with a primary institutional focus on academics. Swarthmore, with its wonderful culture of intellectualism, should definitely do the same.