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Lafayette College will remain in NCAA Division I, retain its Patriot League affiliation, keep all 23 of its current varsity sports, and undertake a fund raising effort in support of its athletic programs. Lafayette's Board of Trustees approved these actions today at a special meeting in New York City that concluded a three month intensive study of the college's athletic programs. Board Chairman Lawrence Ramer said he is confident “the Lafayette community has thoroughly examined and discussed the issues. Today's action by the board of trustees will provide our students with high quality athletic programs that are fully integrated into the active learning environment at Lafayette.”

The trustees also reaffirmed Lafayette's policy of providing financial aid to student-athletes based solely on need.

Lafayette President Arthur Rothkopf said he is grateful to the College's faculty, alumni and students for “enduring a very public self-examination and dialogue that, while painful and stressful at times, was essential to the integrity of the process. The College is better for having completed this self-evaluation.”

Ramer commended the Board, Rothkopf and the Lafayette administration for “having the courage and conviction to undertake and manage this important self-study and open evaluation in such a thoughtful and careful way.”

“The Board has made a renewed commitment to Division I intercollegiate athletics, will continue the current program of 23 sports, and will undertake an aggressive fund raising effort to raise the money to provide Lafayette students with the broadest range of opportunities and the best experiences possible in whatever sports they choose to participate,” Ramer said.

“Expenditures will be made as additional funds become available. Priority will be given to funding those needs that directly benefit the quality of the experience for our students,” Ramer said. “The Board decided there should be no transfer of funds to athletics from our operating budget or endowment that support our academic programs. Lafayette must do all it can to meet its academic priorities. Strengthening the athletic experiences for our students will not divert us from achieving our academic mission.”

Lafayette trustees authorized a study of the College's athletic program last October after concern was expressed by the athletic department that more money was needed. The department recommended that the board drop several varsity and junior varsity programs and reallocate the money to the remaining varsity sports.

Upon review at the October meeting, the board expressed serious reservations about reducing the number of opportunities for students to compete in intercollegiate athletics at Lafayette. As one of the smallest Division I schools in the nation, Lafayette spends more per student on its varsity programs than any of its Patriot League competitors do. Since Lafayette funds its athletic programs primarily from tuition dollars, it must now look to fund raising for the additional money needed.

Ramer announced that Lafayette will seek to raise annual operating funds and endowment to enhance its existing athletic budgets. The amount of money to be raised and how the fund raising will be undertaken was referred to the Trustee Committee on Development and Alumni Affairs.

“Lafayette's reputation as one of the nation's premier liberal arts and engineering colleges has grown directly from our success in complementing academic excellence with a wide range of extracurricular opportunities,” Rothkopf said. “Whatever residential, cultural, social, recreational, and athletic programs we offer must support the strong academic emphasis that forms the core of each student's Lafayette experience.

“A broad range of quality athletic programs is an important component, but what happens between our faculty and our students in the classroom remains our most important priority,” Rothkopf said. “Our mission is to provide a superior learning environment.”

Ramer said Lafayette's trustees moved their meeting date ahead two weeks “to help our students and prospective students who need to make decisions based on what the trustees decide and to be responsive to our students, parents and alumni. I hope they know from today's action that Lafayette is reaffirming its commitment to our athletic programs, to the Patriot League, and competition with Ivy League institutions. The study process made it abundantly clear that athletics are vitally important to the active learning experiences of our students and are an enriching part of the Lafayette experience,” he said.

Ramer said a positive outcome of the study was the widespread expression of interest from alumni willing to contribute additional money in support of athletic programs. “From the many responses we received from alumni and friends it is apparent that the enthusiasm for remaining in Division I and expanding the quality and opportunities available to our students is matched by a willingness to contribute financially to make it happen.”

The trustees turned over to a committee the task of developing a fund raising plan. Ramer said the goal is to raise funds immediately to support and sustain the athletic programs on an ongoing basis. “The money we raise for athletics will be incremental and sustainable and will be in addition to the $143 million Lafayette Leadership Campaign and annual giving,” Ramer said. Today's action by Lafayette's trustees means:

* Lafayette reaffirms its commitment to remain in Division I in 23 varsity sports, including football.

* Lafayette reaffirms its commitment to the Patriot League, of which it is a founding member.

* Fund raising will begin immediately to raise operating funds and endowment to supplement existing intercollegiate athletic budgets. The money will provide increased or improved travel allowances and the appropriate number of coaches, assistants, and trainers. These enhancements will occur as funds become available.

* The trustees reaffirmed Lafayette's policy of providing financial aid based solely on need for students participating in intercollegiate athletics except for those who receive Marquis Scholarship or Trustee Scholarship awards.

The athletic fund raising initiative will be managed by the College's Development Office and will supplement the current $143 million Lafayette Leadership Campaign. Publicly launched in October 1997, that campaign has raised nearly $115 million to date. It is funding more than $60 million in new construction on campus, $30 million in new endowment for financial aid, a major new initiative in behavioral neuroscience, a new fine arts studio facility, and technological upgrades and renovation for classrooms.

While Lafayette benefits from a substantial endowment, restrictions set by donors govern how most of the endowment income may be used. Tuition has been — and continues to be — the major resource for funding athletic programs. For the last seven years Lafayette's tuition increases have been held to a maximum of 4 percent annually.

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