A call for constructive conversations

For the past few weeks, we’ve seen College Council (CC) set aside portions of its meetings to discuss the perceived divide between athletes and non-athletes at the College. CC’s commitment to discussing a topic that perennially recurs in the community dialogue is commendable, and the Student Athletic Advisory Committee’s (SAAC) involvement is much appreciated. However, questions remain as to what CC hopes to ultimately achieve and whether it risks unintentionally exacerbating the issue. In committing to this discussion, CC must share with the student body where this energy is going and involve its constituents in getting there.

Opinions about the College’s athletic social culture vary widely. Some students see the divide as a serious institutional problem; some see it as an acceptable fact of life; and others don’t even see a divide at all. Given this heterogeneity, it is unclear what these open-ended discussions can achieve in CC’s limited meeting time and whether discussions of this nature are the optimal allocation of CC’s resources. This kind of issue certainly demands thought and honest dialogue, but it also needs concrete goals: These conversations should yield some sort of change, no matter how small, that demonstrates CC and SAAC’s dual commitment to acting on the things they are talking about. Additionally, by concentrating solely on the intricacies of the problem instead of generating solutions, CC runs the risk of aggravating the divide instead of bridging it. Concrete goals have been sorely lacking from previous conversations on the divide. Now that CC has proven its weeks-long enthusiasm for this subject, it must try not to fall into these usual traps.

Once goals have been set, we hope that CC will work to include a broader range of voices in the talks, for the conflicting opinions surrounding the divide are not going to be reconciled by discussions amongst two small groups of students. CC members have said that they want to have as many open conversations as possible about this subject, but we’ve seen nothing of the sort as of yet. CC meetings are open, and interested students should certainly attend, but some students need the extra invitation. Where are the Paresky open forums that were such staples of former CCs? If there is going to be any progress toward a remedy for what some consider an institutional problem, there must be institution-wide participation in that remedy.