In Defense of the Student Athlete

This is going to get ranty, and it also is going to be somewhat specific to Sarah Lawrence, the college I attend.

For those of you who do not attend SLC, as of 2015, we are a member of the Skyline Conference of NCAA Division III. We currently have 15 men’s and women’s varsity athletic teams, and will be adding women’s basketball to that list next year. Sarah Lawrence is known for its quirkiness, in a nutshell. We were founded as a women’s college, we are now and have been co-ed since 1968, and our men to women ratio holds around 40:60.

Campus climate is changing. I don’t know when it started, as I’ve only been here a year and a half, almost, but very soon after I arrived I was made aware of these changes. There is a common belief that the administration wants to make Sarah Lawrence a more “normalized” college essentially by adding more males to campus. How do we do this? Add sports and science. Duh, because every male ever loves sports and science. I have heard the president herself say this is not true, and whether or not she is speaking in truth can remain in question. However, regardless of the reasons behind the “push” for athletics, the campus climate is very heavily enraged at athletes.

Whether it be due to the gender situation, or the “ideal Sarah Lawrence student” idea, the hatred towards athletes on this campus is clear and visible. I know. I am an athlete. I don’t go a single day without someone complaining about athletics.

I bring this up now because I am fed up. I just sat through a student senate meeting where other school issues were in discussion, and this idea kept popping up that some of these problems would go away if we didn’t become Division III or we stop “pouring money into athletics.” First of all, I cannot find anything on the world wide web that says it costs anything for a school to join the NCAA. So the idea that we spent all this money to join this jock club is at the moment, untrue.

Second of all, our school is broke. No one has money. We have such a small endowment that not a single department is functioning to its best ability. That is a fact. We can’t blame one department for this. You attackers of athletes are making us a scapegoat.

Third, there are no athletic scholarships. Period. The NCAA doesn’t allow it.

To address this idea that Sarah Lawrence athletes are not really Sarah Lawrence students. It kills me that I am being told to prove my worth at this school because I am an athlete. I have not encountered a problem with faculty, but some of my classmates have. So it’s not just the students. I personally must address the students. To quote the Sarah Lawrence website,

“NCAA Division III is designed for small liberal arts colleges—Bard, Skidmore, Wellesley, and Vassar are all members. In Division III, as at Sarah Lawrence, athletes are students first. They’re encouraged to take part in other extracurricular activities, and there are no athletic scholarships or stadiums full of roaring crowds.”

We are students first. We are Sarah Lawrence students first. People are freaking out because now we can recruit athletes to come here. Listen, Sarah Lawrence will always be a self-selecting school. Recruiting is just a way to find Sarah Lawrence students that might also be really talented athletes. Here’s what happens: either a student falls in love with Sarah Lawrence and decides to come here. Cool bonus: they also play a sport and are able to continue playing that sport at SLC (this happened to me, among so many other people). OR: a student is sought out by a coach from Sarah Lawrence. The student is an incredible athlete, but Sarah Lawrence isn’t the fit for them, because, go figure, some people need a college experience outside of athletics. So they don’t come here. Or, they do come here, and they end up regretting their decision because Sarah Lawrence wasn’t the right place for them.

Part of being such a weird school means not everyone is going to like it here. BUT some people are going to like it here and they’re also going to like sports. It’s just how people work. Clearly, some people didn’t watch High School Musical, and learn that it’s okay to be a jock and like theatre or play the cello.

To students against student athletes: we got into the same school as you. We take the same classes as you. We pay the same tuition as you. We abide by the same rules you do AS WELL AS NCAA rules (which aren’t always fun, to be honest). Stop scapegoating. Stop blaming us. STOP HATING.

xoxo

Kam