Athletic housing would unite, not divide

Male student-athletes at Vassar College received a grand total of zero suites in Main Building this spring, a disappointing fact that got me thinking a little bit about housing on campus. What if there was an athletes-only dormitory on campus, in which only those officially on a varsity roster could reside?

Athletics at Vassar have nowhere to go but up, and there’s no reason to believe that the school can’t become some sort of powerhouse—albeit a Division III powerhouse—in the near future. The outstanding academics, beautiful campus and new facilities are already in place, which makes Vassar intriguing to an impressionable recruit deciding between an assortment of not-so-different liberal arts colleges. Ingraining a winning mentality in the realm of athletic competition symbolizes the next frontier for Vassar College in its never-ending quest for school spirit. Winning on the playing field will require seriousness—just like acing an exam requires seriousness in the library the night before.

Establishing an athletes-only space seems like a logical progression for the school with regard to creating a serious athletics culture. Winning games must be taken seriously, and it comes from a steady diet of bonding and chemistry.

Thus, an athletes-only dorm seems like a good idea when it comes to aiding the student-athletes in their task of creating a sense of unity and camaraderie—and bonding across sports programs seems like all the better.

Nick Hess, a freshman on the men’s varsity soccer team, may have put it best: “I think [an athletes-only dorm] would work really well. It would sort of be like the Olympic Village for Vassar kids. All of the athletes would understand one another a lot better.”

While turning a portion of Vassar’s breathtaking campus into a very poor man’s Olympic Village may be a bit of a stretch, opening up an athletes-only dorm would surely bring student-athletes together. And they wouldn’t only be brought together in a physical sense — student-athletes would be united by a common goal of winning games and making Vassar College more and more relevant in Division III athletics circles.

When you think about it, a crucial piece of Vassar’s mission statement involves bringing people closer together instead of apart—at 124 Raymond Avenue, people of different ethnicites and shapes and sizes and political views and sexual orientations come together to explore themselves in a tolerant, accepting environment (or, at least, this happens in theory). So, couldn’t this be extended to student-athletes in some fashion?  An athletes-only dorm could—and, in my opinion, would—have the potential to bring together people with similar interests and promote a culture of togetherness.

Obviously, an argument could be made that the construction of any athletes-only space on campus would divide, rather than unite. It could, hypothetically, further separate those on varsity teams from non-athletes. But in reality, athletes tend to mingle with athletes, even at a place like Vassar. More often than not, student-athletes find themselves in the company of other student-athletes, not non-athletes with whom they might have less in common. The reasons for this social phenomenon are understandable—student-athletes, regardless of the sport in question, have similar schedules and commitments despite their different seasons , not to mention general interests and goals—and it’s foolish to think that certain irreconcilable differences between athletes and non-athletes don’t exist.

We shouldn’t envision Vassar College as some utopian society, in which athletes and non-athletes are brought together. This just isn’t the case and you don’t have to look very far for validation. With some exceptions, athletes go together and that’s just the way of the world. Even at Vassar.

At least from my experiences over the past year or so, those who play sports at Vassar aren’t like normal students. Again, we’re talking about different schedules, interests, goals and so forth— and they’re attracted to each other.

Therefore, student-athletes should be given the option to live in an athletes-only dorm. It doesn’t have to constitute some requirement, of course, because some student-athletes will still most likely choose to live in a typical dorm that houses non-athletes. But, it might be a good idea to introduce some sort of alternative for those student-athletes who would like to live with those most similar to them. And, trust me, there are those who would support the construction of an athletes-only dorm for the reasons that I’ve already mentioned. Their voices just haven’t been heard yet.

The economics of a project like this may prove to be a significant obstacle, and I’m not an expert on this school’s spending policies. However, I do know that the Cushings and Raymonds of the world could certainly use extensive renovations—living in one of these dorms for two full years would convince you, too—and it’s never a bad thing for an institution to invest in some infrastructure projects (at least, that’s what my Economics courses here have taught me). So, why not go through with the construction of another dorm, even if it’s relatively small? If renovations aren’t foreseeable in the near future, why not try something new?

It doesn’t have to be as glitzy as an Olympic Village in Lake Placid, for instance, but an athletes-only dorm at Vassar might just be a proposition worth pursuing. It would bring student-athletes together and further promote a culture of togetherness on 124 Raymond Avenue, which is firmly in line with what Vassar attempts to stand for. Just remember the words of Nick Hess and the feelings of many other student-athletes on campus.

“All of the athletes would understand one another a lot better.”

One Comment

  1. I don’t see how separating athletes will be a positive thing. It only creates a rift between the athletes and the rest of the student body. People are way more likely to attend if they know the student athletes personally and talk to them/see them/live with them. Putting the athletes separately may alienate them and, if anything, may make people resent the athletes for the preferential treatment they would be getting.

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