SAAC, CC discuss athlete, non-athlete culture on campus

The Student Athletic Advisory Committee (SAAC) has recently committed itself to several new projects and conversations that will incorporate athlete community service and involvement on campus. SAAC has also approached College Council (CC) and met with the council last week about a perceived divide between athletes and non-athletes on campus.

SAAC is a nation-wide organization through the NCAA, with all NESCAC schools containing a comparable group.

“What College Council is to the student body, SAAC is to the athletes,” said Gaston Kelly ’11, a member of SAAC. Jackie Berglass ’11, chair of the organization, spoke to the support system that SAAC provides athletes at the College.

“Its main purpose is to be a support group for the athletic community and celebrate athletics and work with each team to help athletes have a good experience on campus and help athletes integrate into the community and community at large,” she said.

Each athletic team has at least one representative on SAAC, which brings the group’s total to about 35 members. Faculty also serve on the committee.

Recent developments

SAAC has a few new projects underway this year, mostly dealing with athlete community service on campus. The biggest new project for SAAC is a community service deal called 32 for 32, where each of the 32 sports teams undertakes a different community service project.

For example, men’s hockey is involved in a project called Goals to Assist, where team members recruit local businesses to pledge a certain dollar amount per goal scored at home games. The pledges are collected at the end of the year and donated to the Massachusetts Soldiers Legacy Fund (MSLF).

Last year, women’s hockey raised $4500 for their charity organization and has reached out to almost half of the hockey captains in NESCAC to encourage them to do charity in their hometowns this year.

Other community service projects include the Hillcrest toy drive, in which the College pledges to help provide toys for 100 children within the local community, and Powerade Pong, where local teams pledge money to play in Powerade pong tournaments, with the winners determining which charity the money will benefit.

“Community service has always been a big part of SAAC,” Kelly said. “The idea was to centralize it and put a lot more organization to it so people can be more aware about what the athletic teams are doing for the community.” The 32 for 32 initiative was initially discussed over the summer, with strong motivation to make it a primary goal in the SAAC agenda for this year.

“Both [Gaston and I] really felt passionate about community service,” said Berglass. “We’re just such a large body of individuals that we can make such a large impact with just a couple of hours per individual.”

Discussion with CC

Last week, SAAC met with CC to discuss the concept of a campus-wide divide between athletes and non-athletes at the College. Both groups have committed to fostering a campus-wide conversation on ways to improve the issue.

“We’re trying to move away from the word ‘divide’ because there is not so much a divide as a conversation,” said Berglass. “We’re at a school with such diverse people – amazing people, strong people – that there are inevitably different realms that people fall into.”

According to Kelly, the meeting was “a way for [us] to have this dialog, see if there is an issue and how it perceived by people,” he said. Kelly added that the meeting was well attended by students across the spectrum – varsity athletes, non-athletes, past athletes, non-varsity athletes and more – and gathered some general themes that seemed to shine through the varied opinions elucidated in the conversation.

“There seemed to be a general consensus that there wasn’t a divide [on campus],” Berglass said. “There are certain things that cause individuals to be in certain places at certain times. We didn’t seem to conclude that there was any single main problem. We engaged in a very friendly, very open conversation.”

Ifiok Inyang ’11, CC co-president, said CC “approached this conversation with questions in mind. How do we make sure that the athletic experience is the best it can be? How do we reinforce places on campus that really build community?”

Both Inyang and CC co-President Emanuel Yekutiel ’11 were present at this meeting and agreed that it was a success.
“People seemed really appreciative that we were engaging in this conversation,” Yekutiel said. “Conversations such as this are really important for understanding our community better.”
One community-oriented topic that arose during last week’s meeting between CC and SAAC was the structure of the Team Eph program, held as an athletic orientation program for first-year students during First Days. The program has drawn criticism from both athletes and non-athletes because it separates the athletes from students on campus who are taking part in other EphVenture programs.

“For the most part, athletes felt that the problem of Team Eph was that it had all the necessary meetings as academic resources, but it didn’t have enough actual community-building events within it,” Inyang explained. “I think first-year fall athletes would like to interact with more people on Team Eph as well as students on other EphVentures on campus during First Days.”
Currently, there are no definite plans in place for another joint meeting between SAAC and CC.

“This week in council we will recap what happened last week,” Yekutiel said. “As of now, there is nothing set in terms of future meetings, but we definitely saw interest in continuing this conversation.”