Check Your Jersey At The Door
By by STEVE VLADECK, Staff Writer
I still remember walking into my professor's office on an otherwise nondescript November afternoon last year, the day after the field hockey team had rallied from a 3-1 halftime deficit to defeat Skidmore College and advance to the NCAA Final Four.

I made a rather unusual request-at least for me. "I'm not going to be in class on Friday because of an athletic conflict," I told him. He asked, albeit sarcastically, which team it was that I had all of a sudden become a member of. My response, given with a rather impish grin, elicited a chuckle and a somewhat bewildered look:

"Field hockey," I said, quickly explaining that it wasn't as sketchy as it sounded-I was traveling with them to the Final Four as their sports information representative, not as an actual team member.

I felt awkward, yet not because I was missing class to go to New Jersey with a women's sports team. It was something very different.

Fortunately, my professor understood, pretended to give me a hard time about it, then told me what the homework was, and that was that.

Yet, while that story is a funny anecdote, it parallels a sobering reality for too many Amherst students-the tricky proposition of how to resolve conflicts between academics and athletic commitments.

Professors who maintain that, based both on College and NESCAC policy, academics must always take precedence over any athletic commitment are absolutely correct, at least within the letter of the law.

The problem lies not in the principle, however, but in its implementation. Amherst students, like most college students, miss class every so often.

Yet, it has become the unspoken norm on this campus that missing class due to athletic conflicts is less acceptable-and requires more of an outside effort to atone for-than missing classes for other reasons, like sleep.

Had I been in my professor's office on that Monday afternoon last November to tell him that I had a doctor's appointment on Friday, and that it was for that reason that I was missing class, it's likely that there would have been no awkwardness at all.

Why should it have been any different if I were an athlete, going to play in the NCAA Final Four?

It just doesn't make sense to me.

Of course, rigid adherence to the College and league's policies would seem not only appropriate, but also necessary, were it completely unacceptable for any Amherst student to ever miss class.

But it's not, at least the last time I checked, so it seems unreasonable to hold student-athletes to a higher standard than the rest of the student body, and there are plenty of professors who don't employ such a hypocritical practice.

Clearly, this thinly-disguised rant is not directed at any of them. Indeed, it is more than likely that the faculty members whose actions upset me the most, and whose stigmatization of athletes is most reprehensible, will never even see this column.

For whatever reason, they see their opposition to the role of athletics at the College as an excuse to segregate, discriminate and exacerbate.

It is a problem that seems to worsen every year, and one that came up for three friends of mine in two different classes last week alone, so continue to preach to the converted.

The fact is that students, athletes or otherwise, who go out of their way to alleviate conflicts ahead of time should be saluted, not


If we all went out of our way to make up missed work ahead of time, well, we'd be Swarthmore.

What I'm really trying to get at here is the issue of separate

standards for student-athletes and for those of us who aren't lucky enough to play a varsity sport at Amherst.

Policies, whether formal or not, that create separate patterns of treatment depending solely on whether or not you play a sport-or belong to any other subgroup on campus-are not only unreasonable and illogical, but they belong at Amherst about as much as Britney Spears does, this summer's thread on The Daily Jolt forum notwithstanding.

Amherst is, at the most fundamental level, a school dedicated to the somewhat-idealized notion of the "well-rounded student," and, with it, a well-rounded student body,

whatever this year's definition of well-rounded happens to be.

With such an ideal, we must not, consequently, differentiate in how we treat people based on what they are or are not, what they do or do not, what they have or have not.

Have you ever even heard the term "student-musician," or "student-magazine editor?"

I didn't think so.

The simple conclusion is that if 425 of the same people matriculated here every year, we would be Swarthmore, or, even worse, Williams.

We are not, a double-standard of treatment for any subgroup on this campus - particularly in this case for the treatment of academic/athletic conflicts - goes against everything that the Fairest College supposedly stands for.

Yet, what bothers me even more is that, more than going against what Amherst stands for, it goes against everything that Amherst could-and should-be.

I hope this serves as much as a warning to first-years as it will serve as a plea to the faculty.

In a perfect world, I wouldn't have felt awkward in my professor's office that November afternoon, and my friends would never even think twice about going to see their professor ahead of time because the van is leaving at 3:00 on Thursday, and class goes until 3:20.

But, as we've already established, this isn't a perfect world, so you might be better off checking your jersey at the door.

Issue 02, Submitted 2000-09-13 15:59:59