It is often observed that a department's proximity to the center of campus reflects the favor bestowed on it by the powers that be in Parkhurst. Recent controversies concerning Dartmouth athletics and a string of noticeable defeats can, at times, reinforce the sense that the gym's distance from the Green reflects the lowly position of athletics in the eyes of administrators.
College President James Wright's recent decision to double the club sports budget, which he made in conjunction with Athletic Director Josie Harper, shows a growing recognition of the essential role club sports programs play in the lives of Dartmouth students. The club sports program encompasses 25 teams and roughly 1,000 students. Everything from figure skating to fencing to water polo is available for students who want to continue with their favorite pre-Dartmouth activities, build teamwork or just stay in shape in a way that avoids the scramble for a machine at Kresge Fitness Center. Of these teams, 13 compete nationally and should be recognized for their accomplishments.
Additional funding goes a long way toward ensuring their continued success. But this increase alone is not enough. If the club sports budget wanes next year when the money from Wright's discretionary budget runs out, club teams will again face trouble meeting the costs of training and traveling for competitions.
The growth of club sports at Dartmouth is not a new trend. Since 1999, participation has increased by 60 percent, and 10 new teams have been added. This begs the question of why, at a College that values student and student-run activities, the expansion of club sports seems to have been ignored in the past. Indeed, the very independent structure and student leadership inherent in club sports would seem to make it an ideal program to receive funding and be highlighted by the College as an example of the initiative and success of which Dartmouth students are capable.
Ultimately, the administration should be commended for recognizing a student need and acting to fill it. But real questions remain -- why has it taken so long for the club sports program to gain additional funding and will this support become a permanent part of the College's budget? In praising the College for taking this much-needed action, we must not lose sight of the fact that this problem is neither new nor completely resolved. More needs to be done, starting with making this funding increase officially part of next year's budget.