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In the Dean’s Corner

Larry Benedict

This is the first in a series of columns from Dean Benedict. If you have a particular issue that you would like addressed, please e-mail him at

In the last couple of weeks I have been asked a number of questions about the direction of MIT Athletics. These questions stem from an article in the The Boston Globe, which seemed to imply to some that MIT was on the verge of moving in the direction of a Division I sports program, and away from its long and proud tradition of being in Division III.

Well, for those of you who thought we might be playing in the Rose Bowl in a year or two, or wanted to know when you could purchase tickets for March Madness next year, I am afraid I will need to disappoint you.

MIT always has subscribed to the philosophy of Division III and it will continue to do so. To quote from the NCAA Division III statement: “Colleges and universities in Division III place highest priority on the overall quality of the educational experience and on the successful completion of all students’ academic programs. They seek to establish and maintain an environment in which a student-athlete’s athletics activities are conducted as an integral part of the student-athlete’s educational experience.”

Herein lies one of the major differences between DIII and DI. In DIII, we emphasize a student’s academic experience as much as the athletic and seek to maximize the balance between the two of them. This is reflected in the phrase “student-athlete.” DI programs tend to emphasize athletics first and academics second.

Furthermore, DIII intercollegiate athletics is more about participation of the athletes and less about providing athletic spectacles for the entertainment of the fans. This is certainly true at MIT and is in keeping with our overall philosophy of student participation in our athletic program.

From a practical point of view, there are many important differences distinguishing MIT as a DIII school from a DI school:

1. We do not make, and will not be making, special admissions categories and exemptions for prospective athletic candidates. All of our students do and will meet the same high-level entry requirements. There will be no watering down of admissions standards.

2. We do not make, and will not be making, expensive “recruiting” efforts around the country, or as many schools are increasingly doing, around the world, to try to attract top-notch athletes. We will continue to make significant outreach efforts to attract the very best and the very brightest students that we can, and as you all know, many of these students are also excellent athletes.

2. We do not and will not offer special financial aid incentives, scholarships, or the like, either to recruit, enroll or retain an athlete.

3. We do not and will not offer a separate curriculum for athletes.

4. We will continue to offer a broad-based, intercollegiate athletics program, where any student who comes to MIT is free to “walk on,” to try out for a sport, and where many students do just that. MIT is proud of sponsoring one of the largest DIII programs in the country, thereby offering hundreds of students the opportunity to achieve balance in their lives between athletics and academics. This again is in keeping with our participatory philosophy.

While this column has focused on intercollegiate athletics, it would be remiss of me not to emphasize the importance of physical activity in the lives of all our students. MIT is proud to offer one of the largest intramural programs in the country. The same is true of our club sports programs. I might note also that club sports provide a particularly important option for our graduate students to participate on a competitive level and in fact, we see an increasingly large number of grad students in our club events.

We are equally proud of the PE requirement. I have met dozens and dozens of students and alumni who have told me of the importance of the PE requirement in their lives and how they discovered a life-long passion for something like sailing or rowing while taking a PE class.

So we will stay the course on which we have been journeying these hundred plus years. It has stood us and our students in good stead. We will continue to strive for excellence in everything we do at MIT, and that includes a model DIII program.

Larry G. Benedict is the dean of student life.