Yale’s athletes, both recruited and not, anything but ‘substandard’

Like the majority of Yale’s undergraduate population, I was not a recruited athlete. And, like everyone else here, I understand that our campus population is made up of varsity athletes and “non-athletes.” Yet many of these “non-athletes” were varsity athletes in high school, myself included, and still play club and intramural sports here. It is unfair, first of all, to characterize (as Ned Fulmer ’09 did in his column “Go big, Bulldogs, or just go home,” 4/16) everyone at Yale who was not a recruited athlete as a “non-athlete”, and, in fact, I am offended at the implication that I should feel separate from the recruited athletes at Yale because I was not recruited.

Beyond that, though, I am extremely upset about the assumptions that Fulmer makes regarding the athletes at Yale. First, addressing the main purpose of the article, Fulmer states, “Yale coaches recruit. But unable to offer athletic scholarships, they cannot recruit anyone with real talent.”

This is undeniably a false statement. There are many phenomenal athletes at Yale who were offered scholarships to much “better” schools in terms of athletics, but chose to come to Yale because they value the academic experience Yale offers. I’d like to see Fulmer go up to Alex Righi ’09, Mike McLeod ’09, Lindsay Donaldson ’08, Eric Flato ’08 or Ryan Lavarnway ’09 and tell them that they don’t have real talent. They would (and should) laugh in his face.

More offensive that this comment, though, are Fulmer’s about the intelligence of athletes at Yale. He says that “one cannot forget that we also admit recruited athletes who are, for the most part, of a substandard academic caliber and more likely to be apathetic toward collegiate academia.” It’s true, I’ll admit it, there are some athletes at Yale who do not do their work, who do not go to class, who say stupid things in section. But believe me, I know a lot of “non-athletes” for whom these phrases apply as well. I, for one, do not go to all of my lectures; I know that I never finish all of my reading, and I have been to many lectures that are disrupted by “non-athletes” talking or asking stupid questions as well. And I know many very intelligent, hard working athletes, like Josh Cox ’08, Will Engasser ’08, Alex Christ ’08, Sarah Tittman ’09, Phil Lang ’09 and yes, Ryan Lavarnway ’09.

I was a swimmer in high school, and I believe that swimmers, rowers and cross-country runners are some of the hardest working people I have ever met in my life. I also live with two recruited athletes, both of whom quit their respective sports, but now work much harder than I do and often seem more dedicated to their academic experience. It is unfair to them to state as fact these assumptions about their intelligence and their work ethic.

Finally, I resent the implication that a rift automatically exists between athletes and “non-athletes” at Yale. Yes, one can walk into “Commons after 7 p.m. or to Toad’s on a Wednesday night” and see a lot of athletes, but you will also probably see me and my suitemates there, along with many other “non-athletes.” It is not hard to become friends with the athletes at Yale; one only has to make the effort to talk to them without being condescending.

There is a rift between athletes and “non-athletes” not only because of the teams the athletes are on (I mean, you could say that fraternities and sororities create this same kind of divide) or their supposed “substandard intelligence,” but also because many “non-athletes” at Yale either envy the ease at which athletes can enter the social scene or because many “non-athletes” assume they are better and more intelligent than the athletes at Yale because of the very fact that they got into Yale “on their own.”

I understand that Yale is not as stellar as it could be athletically because we do not offer athletic scholarships, but this allows Yale to draw athletes who will choose Yale over other Div. I schools because of its academic reputation. I don’t care if we don’t go to the final four or if we are not D-I in football. All that matters is that our sports teams do well in the Ivies, which they generally do, and that Yalies go to cheer them on. And I believe that the population of athletes at Yale of “substandard academic caliber” is more than outnumbered by the population of them that are intelligent and hard-working students.

Kristin McCall is a junior in Calhoun College.

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