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Benched By a Broken Budget

Guest Column
Stanley Hu

Recently, the MIT Athletics Department has been forced to dramatically cut costs due to budget overruns. Junior varsity teams have been eliminated completely; remaining teams have been trimmed to a bare minimum of members. Worse yet, athletes who thought they had earned a spot on a team are now being told that they can no longer participate.

This situation has disrupted the lives of many students, including myself. I urge you to more carefully consider the effects of the recent cuts, with the hope that the Institute will intervene to improve the situation.

As a senior and a member of the MIT Cross-Country team, I have personally felt the repercussions of the recent athletic cuts. As of last Friday, I can no longer compete, because only a small number of athletes is permitted to enter races. All the time, hard work, and sacrifice spent in preparation for this season has gone to waste. Throughout the summer and hitherto, I ran an average of ten miles a day. On many occasions, I trained twice a day, running to the point of exhaustion. All I ever asked in return was the chance to step on the starting line and race with the rest of my teammates.

After many weeks of practice, I thought I had earned the privilege to compete. My times qualified me to race in several meets, even after the Athletics Department had reduced the size of the travel team to 24 members. Then they cut even further, reducing that number to 14. Finally, last week -- in the middle of the season -- the number fell to 12. Ranked 14th on the team, I could no longer compete. My hopes sank. In what may be my final year of collegiate running, I am now forced to sit on the sidelines and watch the remaining weeks of the season fade away.

Many other students undoubtedly have their own tales of personal sacrifice. Among my teammates, the recent athletics cuts have engendered feelings of betrayal and resentment toward the Athletics Department. Further cuts will only breed more animosity.

I realize that the Athletics Department has been forced into a difficult position. Its operating budget has not increased in line with the skyrocketing costs of supporting 41 varsity teams. Without additional funding from the Institute, the Athletics Department cannot continue to support a quality sports program. In order to help, MIT must act quickly to increase the athletics budget.

Participating in a college sport has been one of the most worthwhile endeavors of my life. Cross-country has taught me a lot about the value of hard work, resilience, and determination. I hope many others will get the chance to reap the same benefits. But this can only happen if varsity sports receive the additional funding they deserve.

(A copy of this letter has been sent to President Charles M. Vest, Dean of Students and Undergraduate Education Rosalind Williams, and the MIT Athletics Department.)

Stanley Hu is a member of the Class of 2000.