Wednesday, March 02, 2005

"Save our teams!" - a time for empathy, compassion and civil discourse

I have been an active friend of AU's tennis team and some of its members for several years. Though I am rarely able to watch matches, I have been proud of the track records of these fine men and women, academic and athletic. Thus I was saddened when a team member took me aside, Saturday morning, for an anguished discussion of the decision, suddenly announced two days before to players and coaches, to abolish AU's tennis and golf teams. For at least some team members, my sense is that these events have had an impact similar to a sudden death in the family.

About the financial considerations that motivated this sudden decision (or suddenly announced decision) I have no information and, therefore, nothing to say. As time permits, I am seeking understand what happened and why it happen. Out of my understanding, perhaps I will have something useful to share with students to come to me, seeking an understanding of forces that buffeted them and over which they seem to have no control. For the moment, regretfully, I have little to offer, other than empathy - and sympathy - for all concerned.

To me, what seems most important is that this is a time for compassion, empathy and civil discourse. Civil discourse is what distinguishes an academic community at its best. Compassion and empathy is needed not only by players, coaches and parents who have been impacted by this decision. It may be needed even more by those who made what must have been deeply anguishing decisions about cutting the teams and how the news should be communicated to those whose lives had a stake in them. Giving priority to human beings is another attribute that distinguishes an academic community at its best.


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