Ned Fulmer has opened a can of worms.
In his column, “Either go big, Bulldogs, or just go home” (4/14), Fulmer makes his case for changes in how the athletics program recruits its athletes — a case that is pretty flimsy in itself. However, that’s not where my issue lies. The biggest problem with Fulmer’s article was the inappropriate way he tries to build his argument. Fulmer picks and chooses elements of Yale’s complex social scene to paint his own image of Yale — one that not only perpetuates inaccurate stereotypes of the incredible student athletes here, but one that is just downright ignorant of the athletics program here at Yale and completely unfair to its athletes.
As a non-athlete, I can acknowledge that varsity sports teams are naturally closer to each other because of how much time they spend together both on and off the field — it is an almost inherent part of being on a team. However, as someone who goes to Commons past 7 p.m. to meet her friends after their practices, who goes to Toad’s on Wednesday nights, and whose suite consists of three varsity athletes and three non-athletes, I can say this quite confidently: the “cultural rift” that Fulmer perceives between athletes and non-athletes is 1) not as pronounced or as un-bridgeable as he makes it out to be and 2) is by no means a result of any sort of intellectual gap between the two groups.
Fulmer himself points out that Yale does not offer athletic scholarships. The conclusion he chooses to draw from this is that Yale recruits “mediocre” athletes “of substandard academic caliber.” But if he chose instead to look at the situation objectively, instead of trying to ignorantly perpetuate the meathead athlete stereotype that already exists here, he would realize that athletes come to Yale because of, and not regardless of, the intellectual environment. They aren’t receiving any money to come here, where most could easily receive scholarships at other, less challenging schools. They come to Yale because they want to challenge themselves intellectually, a notion
Fulmer failed to consider in his little rant. Why would they come here with no added financial benefit to themselves if, as Fulmer decidedly concludes, they were “apathetic toward collegiate academia”? The answer is that they are not — and Fulmer is certainly in no place to generalize them as so.
Plus, I’d like to see Fulmer call the Women’s National Individual Squash champion Miranda Ranieri ’08, Tewaaraton Trophy nominee Lauren Taylor ’08 or the Women’s NCAA Crew Varsity Eight champions athletes without “any real talent”. Just because Yale isn’t amazing in the mainstream sports like football and basketball doesn’t mean that the athletics program at Yale doesn’t produce incredibly talented athletes. He did absolutely no research, if any, into the Yale’s multi-faceted athletics program.
There are non-athletes who “struggle here academically”, and who even, if Fulmer could dare to imagine, are pretty intellectually dormant. There are also recruited athletes here who are brighter and smarter than I could ever strive to be. I’d bet that the anti-social girl who holes herself up in the library for all hours of the day is just as likely to not speak up in section as the athlete. To say that athleticism and intellectualism are mutually exclusive — and that Yale therefore needs to choose one or the other — is one of the most outrageous claims I’ve ever heard. The generalizations and stereotypes that Fulmer posed in his article could easily be made about other groups at Yale: African-Americans, Latinos, Asians — any minority, in fact — or students with legacies here at Yale.
Yet, I am almost positive that no one would write an article about them saying what Fulmer said about athletes here. I can only hope that my fellow students, in what “we pretend to be an elite academic institution”, can recognize that that is not all that defines Yale, and that every student who gets in, belongs.
Joyce Lin is a sophomore in Timothy Dwight College.