Thursday, November 10, 2011

Friday night Rhodes Interview for Patrick Witt seems unlikely

I just got off the phone with Elliot F. Gerson, the American Secretary for the Rhodes Trust who said that he does not believe it is possible for Yale senior quarterback Patrick Witt's Rhodes Scholarship final interview to be moved from Nov. 19.

I reached out to him because back in 2008, Yale defensive back Casey Gerald was in the same situation that Witt currently finds himself in. Gerald was able to be interviewed on Friday night in Houston and flew out the next morning to Boston. He made it back in time to play in the Yale/Harvard game.

Gerson said that the region that Witt is a finalist in is not planning to do any Friday night interviews but more importantly, if Witt were to do an interview in Atlanta early on the morning of the 19th, it is not as simple as jumping on a plane bound for Connecticut.

"Very few of the districts interview on Friday and they all interview on Saturday," Gerson said. "Some years, if some of the 16 districts, if they have a lot of people to interview, if they have a long 'short list' somewhere between 10-16 will do some of the interviews on Friday night and do the rest on Saturday. The point that people aren't appreciating here is that the often require reinterviews as well and the reinterview would be some time in the mid to late afternoon so it really isn't possible to leave and be able to come back for a reinterview especially if he is interviewed in Atlanta, even if we gave him an interview Friday night - they don't do it Friday night - but first thing Saturday morning, he couldn't be back to New Haven and then back again in Atlanta for a possible reinterview at 3 o'clock which is the time that the Atlanta district schedules its reinterviews. The reinterview is a critical part of this process as well."

What this means is that Witt has three options.

1) He can play in the game against Harvard and take himself out of contention for the Rhodes Scholarship
2) He can skip the game and take part in the interview and any possible re-interviews requested by the Rhodes Scholarship committee
3) He can defer his decision and apply for a Rhodes Scholarship next year.

"This is not a simple matter involving changing an interview time," Gerson said. "All Rhodes committees meet the same day around the country. The committees have seven members who specially assemble for a reception with the finalists and the interviews and decision. The interview is central to our process, and is not at all like interviews for most other kinds of opportunities or awards or jobs, and where rescheduling an interview would seem an easy matter, and usually is. This is not remotely a matter of deferring to one or even several other peoples' convenience as interviewers, and it involves an intense and dynamic process over two days involving about 20 people each, and simultaneously in 16 committees across the country."

In an e-mail, Gerson provided some more background of the protocol for attending the Rhodes' final interview.

The Rhodes final interviews have been on Saturdays (morning and afternoons) for at least 50 years. We surveyed colleges and our selectors most recently about 5 years ago and Friday/Saturday remained the preferred dates for our finalist reception and interviews.



Any date we might pick would have some students in conflicts. The dates are set a year in advance and are on the application, which has been available since July. Mr. Witt should certainly have known of the conflict when he applied.


The precise interview time for him in Atlanta, which we could change for his convenience within the time allotted for all interviews, is essentially irrelevant in this context. Candidates have to reappear for possible reinterviews at a time set by the secretary just after all candidates have been interviewed once, usually around 3 p.m. on the Saturday. The finalists must remain there until the committee is certain of its decisions and with no further need to reinterview, and until the decisions are announced.


Importantly, this is not Mr. Witt's only chance to apply for a Rhodes Scholarship. Many students apply (or reapply) the year after they graduate from college, and some two or even three years later, as long as they are not yet 24. Many think they will be stronger applicants then and no doubt some choose to apply then because of conflicts such as his, or for other senior year issues, even simply being too busy with senior year academic work, which is intense for most students of the calibre we see. In recent years, we have has as many as 10 of the 32 winners apply after they have graduated.


We have candidates every year miss games for the interview (as others would miss other games and/or concerts, or other important engagements, if it were a day different from Saturday). We of course regret this but some conflicts are sadly inevitable.

Finally, the Rhodes Scholarship is an academic award, and is not an award for "scholar-athletes" despite some popular perception of it in that explicit light. I think the fact that it is often perceived that way makes it somewhat harder for people to appreciate that the problem you decry is simply a kind of regrettable but unavoidable conflict. Athletic success is, famously, a factor in our criteria deriving from the late 19th Century Will of Cecil Rhodes, and we still honor it. But while exceptional sporting success benefits a Rhodes candidate, our selectors look primarily at academic ability and then at factors relating to leadership, character and likely commitment to serving the public good.

We are very sorry when our schedule presents conflicts such as this.


Witt has stated that he knew of the potential conflict if he were selected as a Rhodes Scholarship. Earlier this week, he said that had he suffered a season-ending injury early in the year he would have regretted not applying for the scholarship. He is still weighing his options and his decision will come next week.

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1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kudos for pushing the Rhodes Scholarship people to interview Witt on a Friday.

What a bunch of arrogant SOBs.

Mike Harrington, TD69

10:29 PM 

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