NESCAC presidents discuss post-season play, hazing at spring meeting

Armed with a petition signed by nearly 200 Williams students, President Carl Vogt attended a meeting of New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) presidents last Wednesday. Though no changes in the conference’s NCAA post-season competition policy were made at the meeting, Vogt, a newcomer to the process, made the position of Williams and its students known to the other NESCAC schools.

It had been rumored that a vote would be taken at the meeting to amend the policy that the NESCAC presidents adopted in April 1998 to limit post-season play among NESCAC teams to only the conference champion in each sport. Vogt said that such a vote was never on the meeting’s agenda.

“It was not on the agenda to vote on [post-season play],” Vogt said. “We did have an extensive discussion about the issue, and I showed materials from Williams students including the signatures on the petitions. As a newcomer to the group of presidents, I presented my point of view.”

Vogt brought signatures from Williams students and from those of other conference schools. Among those who were active on campus in getting together the signatures were Jamie Moorhead ’01, Jen Hahn ’01 and Dan DiCenzo ’01. Vogt also presented a copy of the statement drafted by the NESCAC student forum in 1998 that was later endorsed by student governments of all schools.

NESCAC has been gradually phasing out at-large bids over a three-year period as the presidents stated in their 1998 decision, and the conference is set to restrict all at-large bids starting in the fall of 2001. However, as the NCAA plans to cut back on the number of at-large bids it awards each season, it is becoming more unlikely that NESCAC teams would even be offered at-large bids. Vogt believes this point is crucial to any further discussion of NESCAC policy.

“The issue as I saw it must be viewed in the context of recent NCAA policy which greatly restricts post-season play,” Vogt said. “The issue is now between allowing post-season play for only the 13 teams that win conference championships or also allowing post-season play for maybe two or three more teams each year that receive at-large bids from the NCAA. While there was agreement that this was, at present, the scope of the issue, no consensus was reached by the group.”

Vogt said that the issue could be brought up for consideration again at next fall or spring at the biannual meetings of the NESCAC presidents. He said that with new presidents taking over at Williams and Colby, it was important for discussion of post-season play to continue.

“This policy can be discussed and reviewed in the future, and I believe that the issue will be discussed next fall to include the thoughts of [Williams president-elect] Morty Schapiro and Colby’s new president,” Vogt said. “This is a matter of presidents voting, so the support that needs to be found is with that group. Right now there are some very strong feelings on both sides of the issue.”

Vogt urged students who are interested in the future of NESCAC policy to discuss their positions with Schapiro in the fall.

“I think that the feelings of the student body should be continued to be put forward through President Schapiro,” Vogt said. “He will be receptive to hearing about this and other issues.”

Former College Council co-president Bert Leatherman ’00 said that he was optimistic about changes being made in the fall to allow teams to accept at-large bids. Leatherman, who has been active in the NESCAC Student Forum, a collection of student athletes and campus leaders, cited the motivation of current juniors and the interest of Schapiro in the issue as positive signs for the future.

“I have great hope for the fall for two reasons,” Leatherman said. “First, students who are now juniors have really picked up the ball, and the movement now has momentum. The response at Williams and from other schools with the petition drive was tremendous.”

“Second, President Schapiro is rumored to be someone who appreciates the contribution of sports to school pride and community and someone who values sports as part of the holistic college growth experience.”

Leatherman also was thankful that Vogt has paid such close attention to student concerns over the issue.

“I’d like to thank President Vogt for his vocal support,” Leatherman said. “He has been a great encouragement for us, willing to listen to us and stand up for the students’ side on this.”

Also on the agenda for the presidents’ meeting was a discussion of hazing on NESCAC college campuses. Presidents, athletic directors, deans and students from each of the conference schools listened to presentations by Hank Nuwer of the University of Indiana and Nadine Hoover of Alfred University on the effects of hazing and initiation rites in college athletics. Dean Charlie Toomajian and Fred Storz ’01 represented Williams at the conference.

Storz met with student representatives from each of the NESCAC schools and said that there was agreement on the importance of the hazing issue. He said that the group would meet again in the coming months and eventually hoped to make a statement representing conference athletes.

“It was a very positive thing that happened,” Storz said. “Everyone was happy with the progress we made in expressing how we felt about hazing as a league. [The administrators] really respected what we had to say.

“The consensus among students was that we need a definition of what hazing and initiation are,” he continued. “Hazing has a negative connotation, but initiation can have positive value for team-building. Team captains need to be active in stepping in when things get out of hand, using their role to stop bad situations and foster good ones.”