Harvey Mudd says ‘no CMS’ for on-campus student-athletes

Four women run in a cross country tournament. They wear white tank tops and red shorts.
Cross-country is one of the sports affected by Harvey Mudd’s decision to bar Mudd students from participating in CMS athletics.  (Justin Sleppy • The Student Life)

Harvey Mudd College announced Wednesday that student-athletes living on-campus will not be permitted to participate in Claremont-Mudd-Scripps athletics for the fall semester, according to an online announcement made by college president Maria Klawe. 

The guidelines — which prioritize “protecting the health and safety of all members of the HMC community” — present somber implications for the college’s student-athletes.

A different decision, though, would not have made a difference for some Mudd athletes, as CMS recently announced that “high-risk” sports — including basketball, football, soccer, volleyball and water polo — will be canceled in the fall.

The remaining Claremont Colleges have not announced individual decisions regarding athletics, but CMS “will continue to evaluate the opportunity to participate in limited, conference-only schedules for fall and winter low-risk sports (cross country, golf, swimming & diving, and tennis) if conditions in the Southern California region improve in the coming weeks,” CMS announced. 

For Mudd student-athletes competing in “low-risk” sports, the possibility remains that athletes may choose to live off-campus in an attempt to still participate in athletics. 

“We know that not being able to participate in athletics is very disappointing and frustrating for our student athletes and their families, and we are sorry,” Klawe said. “Please know that this decision weighed heavily on the board as we discussed our options and the anticipated guidance from the county.”

The decision comes during a recent surge in California’s COVID-19 case count and on Los Angeles County’s third straight day of reporting over 2,100 new cases of the virus.

The news hit especially hard for incoming first-year student-athletes, who were eager to get a taste of sports on their new home turf. 

“It makes me really sad and disappointed just because I’ve been looking forward to this idealized ‘college experience,’ and not being able to participate in athletics really hurts that experience,” Amber Hughes HM ’24, a cross-country and track athlete, said via message.

Natalia Orbach-Mandel HM ’21, a CMS swimmer, noted that the college’s decision to cut off Mudd students from CMS athletics before Claremont McKenna College or Scripps College had acted similarly was particularly disheartening.

“I understand the safety aspect, but I cannot understand how Mudd can defend their inability to support their students safely in extra-curriculars, when every other consortial school says they can,” she said. “… I went to Mudd because the consortium exists. I would never have chosen to go to an isolated school that has no library, a lack of variety in humanities offerings, no athletics facilities and no pool, to name a few things. But that is what Mudd is next year.”

Abel Sapirstein HM ’21 was also disappointed and thought the move compromised the liberal arts value of shaping a holistic student. 

“Actions speak louder than words,” Sapirstein said. “In adopting an isolationist policy President Klawe and the Board of Trustees spoke volumes about the value they place on shaping the ‘whole person’ who is well versed beyond math and science.” 

Several Mudd athletes expressed discontentment with a potential of being removed from 5C extracurriculars such as athletics, signing a student-run petition urging the college to conform to a consortium-wide decision.

“The access that cross-campus athletics and extracurriculars have provided to Mudd students extends beyond the immediately visible benefits,” the petition read, citing the “tremendous effect” that support from the surrounding colleges has on students’ mental health. 

A coalition of Mudd athletes even created a document longer than 50 pages to be presented to Mudd’s Board of Trustees in which they described “our passions and more importantly, health and well-being tied to sports,” Orbach-Mandel said.

“I was hopeful that it would make a difference, but at the end of the day can’t say I’m very surprised by the decision,” Orbach-Mandel said.

A Harvey Mudd spokesperson did not immediately respond for comment. 

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