Athletics not the way to address campus diversity

I’m brown, I’m queer, I’m Jewish—all this means I am used to being targeted explicitly for the sake of improving so-called diversity in groups that are targeted at white, straight, gentiles, or, let’s be honest, virtually everywhere.

When I was applying for colleges, colleges bombarded my mailbox with pamphlets touting the diversity of their campuses—as if having a student of color population of less than 40 percent is something to be proud of. So, as someone whose identity is often used for the purposes of furthering diversity, the idea of athletes bringing diversity to Vassar is disgusting, inappropriate and grossly inaccurate.

I took offense with the premise of the sports column from last week’s The Miscellany News that athletes are a form of diversity on campus, since my existence on this majority white campus is ultimately used to benefit my white peers and to further their education (“Athletes add to the Vassar community through unique campus perspectives” 09.19.13). Athletes are never used to educate their non-athlete peers; their educational institutions never boil their existences down to being athletes. Groups targeted for improving the diversity of extremely homogeneous groups are so often essentialized and targeted to simply be a statistic that can be propagated to prospective members of the majority group.

Athletes do not further diversity on this campus simply by being athletes. Athletics, unlike the inclusion of people of color, religious minorities, women and other marginalized groups, has been a part of college life for centuries. Athletes are expected and encouraged to exist at elite institutions, whereas other groups do not necessarily get that same treatment.

I do not deny that athletes have busy schedules, or have to juggle classes and practices in a way that some other students do not—but, then again, so do choir students, and people in club sports, and basically any student on campus who participates in extracurricular activities. And, believe me, I would never say that those students add diversity to this campus simply because of their participation in fairly normalized and accepted extracurricular activities, just as I would never say that athletic presence adds to diversity in any way. While athletes are working out, or going to practice, or any of the other activities that keep athletes so busy during the week, people who were targeted to improve the diversity of this campus are busy receiving hate speech and experiencing microaggressions, all while still participating in classes, extracurricular activities and, yes, even sports. According to last week’s sports column, some of the concerns of athletes are keeping up their GPAs and whether they can beat the other team—some of the concerns of marginalized groups include not being harassed or murdered, as well as the more mundane concerns that plague us all.

The experience of athletes on campus is so wildly different from those of groups that are utilized to promote supposed diversity that it is almost laughable to try to compare the two. I cannot possibly accept that losing varsity athletes would make the school too homogeneous—this postulation borders on the absurd in its ignorance of the experiences of a diverse body of students.  Varsity athletes are not the diversity this school is looking for.

So, forgive me if I am highly skeptical of a male athlete touting athletics as a form of diversity on this campus. I, for my part, will continue to be a member of highly marginalized groups and remain a part of groups that actually further diversity.


—Aja Saafeld ’15 is a German major.

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