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The Lafayette College Board of Trustees will meet January 16 in New York City to vote on how to improve and strengthen the college's athletic programs. The trustees were to have taken up the issue at their January 30 meeting, but Board Chairman Lawrence Ramer has called the members together to resolve the matter more quickly.

“We have heard from the faculty, alumni and our students on this important issue. Now we want to resolve this as quickly as we can with a full discussion at the board meeting,” Ramer said.

In October the Board of Trustees voted to undertake a “comprehensive study of its athletic programs in order to consider alternatives to improving the competitiveness of intercollegiate sports at the college.”

As part of that study Lafayette President Arthur Rothkopf has received opinions from faculty, alumni and students on five primary issues:

How does Lafayette best serve the interests of its students, both now and in the future? And how does the college best position itself to be an institution of choice for high-ability students in a very competitive environment?

Can additional money — substantial, incremental, and sustainable — be raised to support the intercollegiate athletic program? If so, how much?

Should any current sports be eliminated? In making this analysis, Rothkopf said every one of the 23 varsity sports Lafayette plays should be considered.

Can additional sports be accommodated, such as crew, which is seeking varsity status.

Should Lafayette compete at a different level, such as NCAA Division III? The college is a founding member of the Patriot League and currently competes at the Division I level.

Rothkopf said he is gratified by the “outpouring of thoughtful opinions and comments from all the constituencies important to the college.” He has received letters from several hundred alumni on the issue as well as a petition from more than 700 students. “Healthy debate is essential to the study process at a vibrant institution such as Lafayette,” he said.

At Rothkopf's request, the Faculty Academic Policy Committee studied the athletics issue. It endorsed a subcommittee's report that called for a serious examination by the trustees of moving from Division I to Division III. Their recommendations also said that “if a varsity sport needs to be sacrificed to support the other varsity sports, the logical choice is football.”

“It is important to note that there is one unanimous opinion expressed by all members of the Lafayette community in all of this,” Rothkopf said, “and that is that the faculty, our alumni, our students all want a decision by the trustees that will not divert us from achieving our academic mission. This is about making Lafayette an even stronger academic institution,” Rothkopf explained.

Lafayette trustees authorized a study of the athletic programs at the college after concern was expressed by the athletic department that more money was needed to make teams more competitive. 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 1998 meeting, the board expressed serious reservations about reducing the number of opportunities for students to compete in intercollegiate athletics at Lafayette.

Tuition has been – and continues to be – the major resource for funding athletic programs. As one of the smallest Division I schools in the nation, Lafayette spends more per student on its varsity programs and a higher percentage of its budget on athletics than its Patriot League competitors. At the same time, because of the size of its student body, it spends fewer dollars on intercollegiate athletics than these competitors.

While Lafayette benefits from a substantial endowment, restrictions set by donors govern about 70 percent of how endowment income may be used. For the last seven years Lafayette's tuition increases have been held to a maximum of 4 percent annually.

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