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Letter to the editor

Your article on student athlete academics piqued my interest. I took away that a lack of quantitative majors amongst student athletes suggests a failure to place academics above athletics. Such reckless and absolute claims insult not only athletes, but also anyone who does not specialize in one of your thirteen chosen fields.

You asked, “does school come first for athletes” but presented findings about quantitative degree interest. Are we to assume that individuals outside of your chosen studies disregard academics? I contend that a number of self-respecting professors at Duke would disagree.

Using team data on the Chronicle website, I noted that the analysis considered 192 of 273 upperclassmen student athletes. Your article fails to provide a methodology, only sources. Why did you select almost all of football players and less than a quarter of the rowers? You selected a random sample of 215 non-athlete seniors. Why not construct a representative sample if we know population level distribution? Competing at the collegiate level reflects a particular disposition that may sway individuals away from a major that relies upon an inflexible course of inquiry. Did you attempt to control for externalities?

Correlation between varsity athletic participation and major choice cannot ascertain that one leads to the other. It surprises me that one can make an entire case preaching a lack of enrollment in quantitative majors and fall victim to perhaps the most egregious statistical misconception.

I do not intend my reply to attack good intentions. An absence of student athletes in quantitative majors deserves attention. Perhaps practice times should better follow class times or schedule more labs in the evening. But, equivocating a lack of representation in quantitative majors to a lack of academic interest helps no one. It insults athletes, students, and faculty outside of your thirteen chosen majors. I would be happy to discuss this topic in person. I hold office hours on Thursdays this semester as a teaching assistant for PubPol 303—Microeconomic Policy Tools.

Chase Peterson is a Duke Track and Field athlete pursuing a Masters in Public Policy.

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