Just like any other serious commitment, athletes have to dedicate a lot of time playing their sport. This means spending hours a day with our teammates. The truth is that people bond with those they spend the most time with. Everyone comes to college and finds a niche where they feel comfortable. This doesn’t mean that there is an unbridgeable division between athletes and non-athletes, but rather that we’re more likely to be seen together in a large groups and wearing similar clothing.
Like many other athletes, although playing my sport takes up a significant amount of time, it is not the only thing I participate in at Vassar. Being on a team has largely defined my time here because of the function it serves me within this larger community. I know many athletes with passionate academic and extracurricular interests who greatly value their place in the Vassar community outside of sports. They participate in multiple other associations and of course have non-athlete friends. My connection with other athletes has introduced me to new people and further involved me in the many things going on at Vassar.
I see athletics as a way to enhance the entire Vassar experience in the same way drama productions, comedy shows, and writing articles for The Misc do. Playing sports is my way to represent the school and make it a more well-known place. The college mission statement says that Vassar supports “a community diverse in background and experience; and a residential campus that fosters a learning community.” Only through sharing what we love to do and appreciating what others have to offer can we build a safe and creative learning environment.
I would never want the athletic community to be exclusive from the rest of Vassar. Any type of social division would compromise Vassar’s integrity as an inclusive and diverse institution. Mixed gender and class-year housing is one of Vassar’s greatest characteristics, especially for incoming freshmen. Vassar fosters an integrated community in countless ways. The fact that we have a small campus, no Greek life, only two dining halls, a general lack of local bars and few class requirements for freshmen allow us to interact with a large portion of the student body on a daily basis. It is essential that Vassar continues to make it easy for students to expand their social circles, regardless of whether people take advantage of this or not.
As I know many others agree, I want more out of Vassar than a strong athletics program. I accepted my offer of admission here at Vassar without intending to play a sport. Every athlete came here to be a student first, and an athlete second. Not only is that how it should be at a Division III school, but it is what Vassar requires of us. I appreciate that I have the time and encouragement from the athletics program to define myself as more than an athlete. We have the choice to make our sports identity as large or small as we want.
I recognize that many people came here to play on a varsity team in addition to receiving a great education. The athletic facilities here are above par for a Division III school. Vassar should be given credit for providing amazing resources to its athletes, especially in recent years. Although varsity players receive greater access to these resources, the athletes I know are on a team so they can play their sport. Many of us understand that the privileges allotted to athletes come with the responsibility to represent the values of the college both on and off campus. Asking for any preferential treatment in other aspects of Vassar life would be undeserved and against Vassar’s values.
The goal of the VC athletics program is not to become a sports powerhouse at the cost of core Vassar values. Nor is it the goal to rally Vassar school spirit exclusively through sports. Earlier this year, we saw what really rallies this community when Westboro Baptist Church came to challenge our values. In my opinion, a robust and involved athletics community reinforces the values we so strongly defend. Separating ourselves from the rest of the community would only threaten what we work so hard to uphold. Our differences are what bring us together at Vassar, so we should continue to foster a community that unites people with different interests and goals.
My team doesn’t need an athlete-only space to take our sport to the next level. We’re currently having the highest winning season in VC Women’s Lacrosse history. Besides, my team just wants what everyone else on campus wants from Vassar: a TA bridge and chocolate milk at the DC.
—Malena Harrang ’14 is an International Studies major.