The following statement was prepared by President Weiss for the January 29, 2011, meeting of the Board of Trustees. At the request of the Board's executive committee, the message is now being shared with the broader Lafayette community.
Since becoming Lafayette's president in 2005, I have had numerous opportunities to engage deeply with the College's varsity athletics program. My family and I enjoy cheering for the Leopards, and I have been impressed by the personal commitment our student-athletes make to their teams and by how hard they work to be outstanding representatives of their college. In my role as the faculty advisor to Lafayette's women's soccer team, I have been privileged to see how dedicated the players are to their sport and how diligently they work to balance their obligations as students and as athletes.
As a former athlete myself, I am also fully aware of the enormous benefits that young people derive from participating in competitive sports. It is no accident that so many of our alumni who were varsity athletes attribute much of their success to the skills and values they acquired as team members. Student-athletes gain self-discipline and confidence and learn the importance of goal-setting and effective time-management at the same time that they have fun and make lifelong friends.
As Lafayette's president I have also made it a priority to familiarize myself with key operational issues associated with the program, including its funding structure and the history of our affiliation with the Patriot League. This process has been informative and clarifying and has reinforced my conviction of the value of athletics to the College. I am committed to the program and believe that it is wholly consistent with Lafayette's mission.
For these reasons I am especially proud that we continue to make substantial investments in the program's success. Over the past decade or so Lafayette has expanded its coaching and training staffs, funded merit-based athletic scholarships in selected sports, and significantly upgraded its facilities for football, baseball, softball, soccer, and track and field. The Kamine Varsity House, which was dedicated in 2008, represents a major upgrade of the facilities available to all athletes who practice and compete at Metzgar Fields. We look forward to further improvements at Metzgar when the Morel Field House is completed this spring. The majority of these improvements have been funded by alumni who were themselves varsity athletes as undergraduates.
Lafayette derives immeasurable value, as well, from its affiliation with the Patriot League. The League's success is grounded in its founding principles, foremost among them the demonstrated commitment of the member institutions to the importance of academic and athletic achievement. Lafayette was proud to join League members Colgate, Holy Cross, and the Naval Academy in the NCAA's most recent list of the Division I institutions that recorded the highest graduation success rates. In addition to being leaders in the classroom, student-athletes at Patriot League schools participate fully in all phases of campus life, including extracurricular activities beyond their particular sports.
The Patriot League requires - appropriately, in my view - that its oversight be the responsibility of the schools' presidents. We take this charge seriously and work collegially and productively to fulfill our mutual goals. Most recently, as most of you know, the Council of Presidents voted to table for two years the proposal that merit scholarships be awarded in football, the only sport for which League policy stipulates that grants be offered exclusively on the basis of the student-athlete's demonstrated financial need. While I fully accept the fact that reasonable people can disagree about the merits of the outcome, it is important that everyone understand that the League presidents studied the issue thoughtfully and thoroughly before reaching their decision. After considerable discussion, we took the step that we regarded as the best means of achieving our ultimate objective: to ensure the League's long-term strength, competitiveness, and quality.
Whereas I do not know what the future holds, I believe that Lafayette is enormously fortunate to belong to the Patriot League. I remain steadfast in my commitment to the League and to the College's continued involvement in intercollegiate sports at the Division I level, and I look forward to working closely with the other presidents as we continue to advance our shared vision.
Daniel H. Weiss