Today, we have an op-ed in from middbeat contributers Aleck Silva-Pinto ’16 and Lizzy Weiss ’17 on the ongoing discussion surrounding the article about athletic privilege recently published by The Campus. The article has certainly sparked a lively debate, and here is yet another take on the issue. Read up, post replies, and feel free to submit your own opinion piece to the middbeat gmail ([email protected]).
Did this Yak bring you here? If it did– good! We wrote it.
When soon-to-be graduates Isaac Baker ‘14.5 and Hannah Bristol ‘14.5 published an article for The Campus entitled “It’s Actually Just a Game,” students took to Facebook and Yik Yak to add their voices to the debate. Too often, the yaks and anonymous comments on the online version of the article were vitriolic personal attacks on the authors that offered little substance. We will leave it to you to note the hypocrisy of a yak that criticized the cowardice of publishing a controversial opinion just weeks before graduation– because that anonymous yak really makes you brave.
We felt the need to post an inflammatory yak about our own article because it seems like members of our community are only willing to engage in debate when they feel like they have some skin in the game. Athletic privilege is a hot-button topic, but it took a slightly radical (although we would argue not too radical) piece to get us to have this conversation. So a big shout out to Hannah and Isaac for starting this debate. Clearly, it’s one we need to have.
Our campus is small enough that anonymity can feel essential when talking about controversial issues. No one wants to estrange those they are close to despite their own strongly held convictions. Therefore, we applaud Jake Nidenberg ’16 for submitting a response to The Campus. Though we disagree with him on some points, his willingness to be held accountable for his opinion is laudable.
This point being made, let’s get on to the issue itself.
In many of the responses to Bristol and Baker’s article and also in the middbeat audio piece, students have tended to defend the academic standing of athletes, either through anecdotal evidence or uncited statistics. We would argue that these defenses stem from the very true and acknowledged reality that many of the athletes on our campus are in fact high-achieving, well-rounded students. Many respondents cite their NARP-athlete relationships as further proof that the social boundaries are not nearly as rigid as presented by The Campus article. The bottom line is this: most students seemed to want to say, “athletes are just like us.”
We agree! We are also friends with athletes. They are real people too. And many of them are incredible individuals with a wide variety of interests that extends beyond sports.
However, just because a male lacrosse player is also a ballet dancer and hikes Snake Mountain every weekend with his community friend does not mean that he is exempt from the inherent privilege that comes with being a member of a team.
This is the crux of our argument: Privilege cannot be dismantled by individuals defying stereotypes. Instead, the privilege granted to athletes on this campus is engrained in the cultural makeup of this institution.
Where The Campus article got into trouble on this point was their lack of hard facts. The reality is this: when talking about athletic privilege, many of us want to make a point about the admissions process, about class selection advising, about room draw advantages; but the facts and quantitative evidence are just not there.
So why don’t we hold off on baseless attacks on the institutional advantages given to athletes. Instead, let’s talk about the perception of social privilege reserved for members of certain teams.
Let’s call a spade a spade. The Campus article was not talking about the women’s softball team or the men’s cross country team. There are athletes on this campus who enjoy a special social standing not granted to every member of the athletic community or the Middlebury community as a whole.
It’s hard to articulate exactly what that social privilege looks like. In our experience, something happens almost immediately during freshman year. A group of students, determined by certain social parameters, gravitate towards one another and their counterparts in the grades above. They join, as we call it, ‘the scene.’
Is this different from when the canoe-paddling, Carhartt-wearing, Chakko-strapping, freshmen start hanging out at Brooker? Not necessarily. It’s a natural tendency.