Protest intensifies against swimming cuts

by Jessica Spradling | 12/7/02 6:00am

Amid accusations that the College had refused several million dollars of alumni donations to endow the recently-eliminated swimming and diving teams, nearly 600 Dartmouth students gathered at Parkhurst Hall for the largest campus protest since the announcement of the Student Life Initiative.

According to members of the swimming and diving teams, several alumni have offered individual donations of up to $1.5 million to endow the swim team but have been turned down by administrators.

An attempt to "sell" the teams online at eBay garnered several bids over $211,000 before eBay removed the posting Thursday afternoon.

Team members said College administrators originally told the swimmers and divers in November that the teams could maintain their varsity standing if they raised $5 million to endow the program.

Though the protest did not change the administration's decisions, both Dean of the College Jim Larimore and College President Wright addressed the crowd.

Larimore remained firm in his position that the College's "decision has been made, and we are standing by that." He told the gathered students that money donated to the swim team would detract from donations to the general capital campaign, which already has a set list of priorities.

Wright said that he was not going to deliberate with a crowd gathered at his doorstep. He also indicated that his decision to reject alumni donations earmarked for the swim team was not open for debate.

Though College Provost Barry Scherr -- whose office is also in Parkhurst -- did not address the crowd, he later told members of the swim team and their parents that he had turned away similar alumni donations targeted at other college budget cuts that were not capital campaign priorities, such as Sherman Art Library.

Mia Yocco '03, the co-captain of the women's swimming and diving team, said that while the administration had been "warming" to the swimming and diving teams that the College was "definitely holding the lines."

Men's team co-captain Louis Fidel '03 said that while Wright had been very positive in a lunch he had with the affected teams, swimmers still felt that the administration "has their fingers in their ears."

Students began to gather on the Green at about 11:30 a.m. before marching to Parkhurst Hall around noon. Captains of the men's and women's teams spoke to the crowd, as did Student Body Vice-President Julia Hildreth '05.

"Jim Larimore is not the dean of the college -- he is our dean of our college, and he needs to listen to us," Miles Harrigan '03 said.

The Student Assembly passed a strongly-worded resolution on Tuesday calling on the administration to retract their decision "to eliminate the swimming and diving teams without student input."

Student Body President Janos Marton '04 said that the Assembly "essentially gave the administration an ultimatum to respond to our resolution," referring to a demand that Larimore deliver a written response by Jan. 13.

According to Yocco, the swim team is going to take some "down time" away from their protests to focus on final exams, but after exams are completed, they will begin meeting with Assembly leaders to discuss "solutions to our problem."

Yocco added that the ongoing debate has been a distraction for the swimmers and the campus at large as students move into the examination period. "We haven't really done anything but think about this," she said.

The admissions office announced that recruited swimmers who submitted early-decision applications for the Class of 2007 will receive an answer with the rest of the early '07s, but the recruits will no longer be obligated to matriculate if admitted.