Institute Involvement and Control
From the beginning of our Alma Mater the
physical health of its student population
was advocated to enable each to reach his
or her highest potential, though by its inception
and name was intended as an institution of
technology rather than a college of social
activity. While at first it was exercise that
was stressed and best provided by military
drill under the influence of the Civil War
there was a more potential advantage by compliance
with the Morrill or Land Grant College Act
whereby financial receipts from the sale of
western lands accrued to those institutions
that participated in the military training
provisions of that legislation.
The Institute having been started in rented
rooms in the North End of Boston and in the
business section of the city while a new campus
was under construction on Boylston Street
in the newly filled in Back Bay, there was
no place to carry out organized physical activity.
Soon after consolidation of classes a drill
hall was erected in which to conduct military
exercises rather than on the dirt pavement
of Boylston Street itself, also to be used
for general exercise of all students not enrolled
in the military corps.
Through the early Boylston Street years the
value of exercise was stressed, distinct from
athletics which was recognized as having values
for its disciplines in some situations, yet
with the understanding of the students of
"Boston Tech" that it was "place
for men to work, and not for boys to play".
There was, never-the-less, pride by both faculty
and students of the accomplishments of teams
and individuals in competition with other
institutions, with the ever mindful necessity
of keeping play subordinate to study. But
any expense and all control was in the hands
of the individual or teams. There were successes,
mainly in football which reached championship
status, which paved the way to problems incompatible
with the goals of the faculty and alumni.
By the 1890's athletics had reached an undesirable
state through unwise funding of teams and
activities which reflected adversely back
on the Institute. A group of alumni aware
of the worsening condition, undertook corrective
measures by forming a council to advise and
assist in the financing of athletic activities
before there was a breakdown or scandal. As
the first need was a rational source of funds
rather than borrowing, plans were developed
for an Institute Show. With the assistance
of team members and parents a production was
staged at the Hollis Theater in Boston, the
forerunner of annual Tech Show dedicated to
the support of athletic activities through
the Technology Athletic Association.
The Alumni group, organized as the Alumni
Advisory Council on Athletics, has continued
in conjunction with the Technology Athletic
Association in direct control and operation
of all sports at M.I.T. This leaves athletics
completely free of control or influence by
the Faculty or Administration making M.I.T.
quite unique in the field of higher education,
tested by almost a century of practice, of
which we can be justly proud.
Rowing was not yet a part of the athletic
activities of Tech although there were undergraduates,
graduate students and faculty who had interest
or experience which was in no way in conflict
with the separation of sports from the administration
of M.I.T. President Maclaurin had been indoctrinated
to rowing in England and expressed a hope
that someday there would be Tech crews rowing
on the Charles. Prof. Robert Richards had
been stroke on Union Boat Club crews and donated
the Richards Cup for Class crews in honor
of his brother who had been an oarsmen at
----- in England. Through the years there
have been many professors or instructors who
served as coaches without compromising the
policy of non-involvement.
The Alumni Advisory Council for athletics
was organized with the purpose of serving
as advisor to the various athletic teams at
M.I.T.. Its function was to be involved in
matters of legitimizing records in those sports
and the awarding of insignia to this qualifying,
all in conjunction with a close relationship
to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Athletic Association (M.I.T.A.A.). Its constitution
was uncomplicated, leaving plenty of room
for development of procedures best suited
to the needs of the sports supervised.
The membership, while alumni in name, was
made up of both graduates and undergraduates
in order to provide a close tie to their interests,
five alumni and three undergraduates. The
alumni members elect their own membership
on a rotating schedule to provide continuity,
further emphasized by having only the chairman
and secretary-treasurer re-electable, all
on three year terms. The most recent past
manager of the track team and two others usually
from the senior class, all recommended to
the Advisory Council by those departing from
membership. Functioning with these eight were
the President and Treasurer of the M.I.T.A.A.
and a representative of "The Tech"
to provide information and publicity.
The Alumni Council has general supervision
and control of athletic organizations engaged
in public contests and no group is allowed
the use of M.I.T. or Technology unless sanctioned
by the Council. In the earlier days of Tech
rowing when all was haphazard condition due
to indefinite availability of oarsmen, dependent
on borrowed equipment and boathouse, lack
of coaching and erratic hours of practice,
recognition of crew had not been obtained
and some friction developed over their participation
in races. This situation was not resolved
until after the Institute had moved to its
new campus in Cambridge and arrangements made
by interested parties, including members of
the Advisory Council, for use of the BAA Boathouse
a mile upriver.
Crew being inherently an expensive activity
even in its most simple form, merely having
a shell in which to row is only the beginning.
Repairs, even with volunteer workers or rowers,
was never ending and good will cannot be relied
on to last indefinitely. Appeals for funds,
addressed to alumni groups, were sometimes
productive but gave no assurance of continuity
but once recognition by the Advisory Council
was afforded there was at least the basic
foundation for support.
The Treasurer of the M.I.T.A.A. controls
the allotment of all funds to sports activities.
The source of those funds at M.I.T. is the
Student Tax, an assessment on all students
at the time of registration, plus donations
from whatever direction.