SAAC hosts panel, discussion on athlete, non-athlete divide

Last Thursday, the Student Athletic Advisory Committee (SAAC) hosted a forum dedicated to the non-athlete/ athlete divide on campus, in collaboration with the Davis Center. SAAC wanted to begin the process of critically examining how this divide contributes to the culture and community on campus, and focus on what actions can be taken to lessen and bridge the divide. As this was the first step in the process, more time was devoted to discussion about the divide, what spaces it exists in, what parts of athletic and non-athletic communities may cause its perpetuation and what aspects of the College in general contribute to it.

The forum was kicked off by a panel, moderated by Margo Beck ’18, consisting of Isaiah Blake ’21, Phacelia Cramer ’19, Bret Hairston ’21, Rob Hefferon ’18, Jaelon Moaney ’19, Michael Nettesheim ’20 and Alia Richardson ’19. They answered questions ranging from what the divide is and where it comes from to whether it begins with admissions, from how aspects of a person’s identity may intersect with the divide to how it manifests in social experiences. One important idea is who is doing the work to deconstruct issues, like athletic communities not providing space for other identities, as well as how and when they are doing that work. Additionally, the question of time was brought up often, with panelists considering if time is actually the limiting factor for a lot of the problems that contribute to the divide.  Another important point was thinking about how a non-athlete interacts with athletes who are in large amounts of space and vice versa; how does the individual feel walking into a group, considering how that group is acting?

From there, we broke into round-table discussion oriented towards actual steps that could be taken to improve the divide. The support of non-athletic events, the physical space and the furniture in public spaces, the domination of Hoxsey by sports teams, accessibility and disabilities and the gender binary language used around sports were all issues tables brought up as contributing to the divide.

One solution that was suggested multiple times was collaborations and engagement with other groups on campus, whether between non-athletic and athletic groups or across different sports and clubs. One example given was the Black Student Union and the football team discussing Colin Kaepernick, whose activism situate him at the intersection of these two groups. Another solution is redesigning the spaces where we sit to make them more inclusive and allow for multiple groups to occupy them comfortably. Some smaller, but more concrete, steps discussed included groups setting goals related to the community, such as being conscious of how much space the group takes up at meals and making sure there is space to walk past their chairs.

Additionally, one table suggested that the blue cup program, where eating with a blue cup signalled to other students that one was open to meeting new people, be reimplemented on campus.

A few more ideas expressed were expanding the “Captain’s Corner” in the Record to include leaders from other groups on campus, as well as giving dancers in all dance groups P.E. credit.

SAAC was excited to see the participation this event received, not only in attendance but also in the discussion afterwards. That being said, there was not as much discussion time given to future changes to be made; there is still a lot of work to be done for this division to be eradicated. Moving forward, SAAC will work to implement changes suggested at the meeting. Additionally, SAAC will be hosting follow-up workshops further geared towards action steps and potentially institutional changes that can puncture the perpetuation of the divide. Stay tuned for more details about those in Winter Study and the spring semester.