Students in Service and Leadership at Harvard

Galen's Blueprint for Action

Process Overview

The overall process consisted of identifying our potential issue/area for improvement, collecting data, and searching for trends within the data that could provide insight into improving our social environment at Harvard.

What are the objectives?

My main objective was to see if there exists a social rift between Harvard non-athletes and student-athletes that stems from stigma revolving around privilege. In addition to identifying any issues, I sought to find any correlations between demographic backgrounds and sentiment in order to find potential roots to any problems. Finally, I looked to field suggestions from students as to how we can address any social issues surrounding this topic.

Because this involved surveys to the student body, I took this opportunity to field a few additional questions. I decided to measure the general awareness of the Crimzone Rewards app, a Harvard Athletics fan rewards app, as it has the potential to be a wonderful facilitator of interaction between non-athletes and student-athletes. I also surveyed a few questions regarding students' fitness routines during this COVID-19 pandemic out of my own curiosity.

Data Collection

I collected data through two surveys. The first was sent to the general Harvard student body and measured sentiment around Harvard student-athletes, qualitative suggestions on how to improvement the social climate around these two student bodies, Crimzone app awareness, quarantine fitness routines, and general demographics. The second was sent to team captains of Harvard Varsity sports teams and measured home-court advantage sentiment, sentiment around Harvard student-athletes, qualitative suggestions on how to improvement the social climate around these two student bodies, Crimzone app awareness, and quarantine fitness routines.

Key Findings

  1. The data points to the existence of differences in opinions between non-athletes and student-athletes at Harvard. How this is manifested in Harvard's culture on campus is left for further, more precise research.
  2. There is a clear correlation between sentiment on student-athletes and status as a non-athlete or student-athlete, although this should not be very surprising.
  3. There is a correlation between positive sentiment towards student-athletes and higher number of Harvard sporting games attended even accounting for the status as a non-athlete or student-athlete.
  4. There is room for a lot of progress on the front of increasing fan attendance at Harvard sports games. Student-athletes understand Harvard is not a sports institution like many in the SEC, Pac-12, etc., but similar amounts of effort and dedication are spent towards sports training and the positive social affect higher game attendance could have on campus should be looked in to.
  5. Opinion: I certainly believe there is both a spoken and unspoken social rift at Harvard between non-athletes and student-athletes. I think the unspoken biases have existed for a while, but only recently has the spoken rifts surfaced with more frequency. Harvard is arguably the top institution in the world, and with such diverse student body and high concentration of smart, able-thinkers, there are many issues that arise on campus and become politicized. Similar to how outspoken Democrats and Republicans on campus are very unlikely to become friends, issues such as affirmative action, the Harvey Weinstein case, final clubs, and many others often divide the student body based on the opinions students hold. It appears to me that Athletics is headed in a similar direction, particularly with outside media attention on recruiting scandals and athlete non-diversity. While these are certainly valid issues, I hate to see Athletics become a dividing topic in the Harvard student body. This is why one suggestion from a surveyed student caught my interest: maybe we shouldn't survey students and publish findings on social rifts between non-athletes and student-athletes in a very public manner since we may be fabricating an issue where one doesn't exist. Rather, we should naturally reduce the spoken aspects of any potential issues and address the unspoken aspects. This is why I love the idea of adding non-athletic events onto the Crimzone rewards app. As mentioned in the third key finding, there is evidence of a more positive sentiment towards student-athletes the more a student attends Harvard sporting events, and I firmly believe this would work in the other direction as well. In general, I believe if students came to better understand the everyday lives of other students whether they spend their time in performing arts, athletics, cultural groups, or the library, the campus would become closer as a whole.

Data and Visualization

Student-Athletes and Non-Athletes

These trends indicate non-athletes tend to have friend groups comprised more of other non-athletes compared to athletes. This result is unsurprising as roughly 20% of the student population participate in Varsity athletics so it is more likely for non-athletes to meet and befriend other non-athletes. Athletes have several hours each day designated to training with fellow athletes so their friend groups are bound to consist of other athletes.

The sentiment question on the surveys was the following: Do you agree with the statement “Student-athletes at Harvard are over-privileged”? There is a clear trend in this data with non-athletes being much more likely to answer Agree or Neutral and student-athletes being much more likely to answer Disagree or Strongly Disagree. This is likely a suspected result, but it is a potential indicator of the existence of some social rift between athletes and non-athletes. It is also interesting to see the overwhelming skew in opinions from varsity team captains. As a team captain myself, we are deeply ingrained into the rigors of the student-athlete life, and this skew is due to the amount of genuine hard-work and sacrifice we witness from both ourselves and our teammates to represent Harvard in our respective sports. (note: I attempted to remain as objective as possible in the gathering and analysis of this data. I felt compelled to offer my opinion on this matter, and I did not participate in this survey) From the qualitative responses from the team captains, it also seems that a large part of the responses are also based on the fact Harvard student-athletes receive essentially the least benefits across all D1 schools in the nation.

I attempted to find any correlation between sentiment and class year, but with overlapping error bars, sentiment based on class was essentially equal with small statistical fluctuations.
This graph, which measures sentiment with the number of athletic games attended in the past academic year, is quite interesting as there are clear correlations between the number of games attended and disagreement in sentiment. A hypothesis behind this result is that 1) students who attend athletic events are more familiar with the rigors athletes go through to perform at the highest level during their games and 2) students get to know student-athletes better as they are more likely to encounter them at sporting events.
A caveat to the previous graph is the potential for omitted variable bias. As we can see, there is a relatively strong correlation between higher game attendance and being a student-athlete, something that would certainly affect one's sentiment opinion. To address this, I ran a super simple regression of sentiment on number of games attended with fixed-effects on student-athlete status.
As we can see, there is certainly a very strong correlation between being a student-athlete and attending more athletic events, but we note there is still a statistically significant negative correlation between game attendance and sentiment, indicating attending more athletic events likely has some type of effect on sentiment.

This graph is interesting as there is a clear divide in the data between non-athletes and athletes. Non-athletes are just as likely to receive full financial aid as they are no financial aid while student-athletes are much more likely to receive no financial aid than all of the other levels of aid. It is not unreasonable that socioeconomic backgrounds, which greatly influence our lives, may play a role in a potential social divide between these two student groups.

Crimzone App

The Crimzone app is maintained by the Athletics department, and it is a fan rewards app for increasing attendance at Harvard home athletic events. (
Unsurprisingly, student-athletes have a higher adoption rate of the Crimzone App than non-athletes. It is concerning that over half of the student-athletes don't own the app, however, as it is extremely easy for athletes to gain points simply from attending their own events. We can see there is plenty of room for growth both in terms of awareness and adoption.

Home-Court Advantage Sentiment

Team captains were surveyed a handful of questions regarding home game attendance.
The graph to the left represents the results from the question: Are you satisfied with the amount of fan attendance at key events (e.g. Ivies)? Clearly, there is a divide between those who are satisfied with game attendance and those who wish more fans would come out although the distribution of answers based on types of sports was relatively random.
The graph to the right represents the results from the question: Are you satisfied with the amount of fan attendance at non-key events (e.g. regular season non-ivy)? We can see there is a pretty heavy skew to the dissatisfied column, although this is likely to be expected at a non-sports-centered institution like Harvard.
The graph on the left represents the results from the question: Do you feel you/your team would have a higher chance of winning with higher fan attendance? Although there are certainly many teams that feel a larger home crowd would provide a stronger home-court advantage, it is interesting to see many disagreements to this statement as well. The data shows most (but not all) of the disagree and neutral responses come from sports that are largely individual rather than team-centric (think track & field vs. water polo).

Quarantine Fitness Routines

These questions asked on quarantine fitness routines were purely out of curiosity and the fact I had surveys to send out anyways.

The graph to the left asks students to what extent their level of exercise has changed during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is clear than a significant amount of students' fitness routines have changed, but it is encouraging to see that many have found even more time to exercise despite the limitations with gym closures.
The graph on the right asks students how much time they spend working out on the days they work out. The result was a stereotypical bellcurve from 0 to 2+ hours with the majority spending 30 minutes to an hour per session.

This final graph asks students how many days per week they now exercise. It is interesting and encouraging to see that the majority of students work out on over half the days of the week each week.


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