The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Letter to the Editor: What is the role of athletics on our liberal arts campus?

To ALL it DOES concern,


In response to last week’s “Letter to the Editor: a response to APSA Sports article,” I felt obligated to provide some faculty perspective on the complex role of athletics in our community. While I was happy to see a well-argued response on this important topic from a Guilford College athlete, I remain dismayed at the uneven priorities that I see among many Guilford athletes I encounter — not to mention the uneven priorities of many Guilford administrators.

The author is correct in stating that athletics at Guilford is “a revenue generator and powerful recruiting/retention tool — specifically for students of color,” but such a fact fails to address deeper issues related to the motivations driving student decisions to attend college and the subsequent impact such motivations have on our shared community: why do we want students to attend Guilford? What do we want them to leave our community with after completing their degrees?

As a community, we seem averse to exploring the role that athletic commitments play in the life of the mind at a liberal arts institution like Guilford. While I see the benefits of athletic achievement for developing skills as community leaders and agents of change in society, I do not see the same emphasis being put into academic discipline and rigor on the part of either many student-athletes or some administrators preaching the virtue of a strong athletic program.

I want to be clear: what I am saying is not intended as a blanket statement for all athletes, coaches or administrators, but rather represents my general impressions about athletics at Guilford after three years teaching here.

Stepping past the hyperbole of statements like without athletic boosters, “Guilford would be no more,” I want to draw our attention back to what makes Guilford distinctive.

Guilford’s core values and commitments to academic growth and creative intellectual experience draw many students to this place. This does not mean that we cannot have a strong athletic program, too, but it does mean that we need to give equal resources and respect to what are stereotypically seen as very different paths: athletics and the cloistered academic rigor that can only be found in liberal arts institutions.

Beyond resources and respect, we as a community must also foster open discussion and dialogue about the opportunities and constraints of student athletics.

Like most, my experience of athletes here at Guilford has run the gamut from actively engaged student-athletes to attentively disengaged athlete-students. Not only are some athletes’ expectations of the college life skewed by athletic recruiting, but some student-athlete’s motives for coming to Guilford can clash with those that have chosen Guilford for drastically different reasons.

I believe we need to have open and equal dialogue about such differences in our community.

As a faculty member concerned about the long-term viability of the college, I take that charge to be not just financial, but also intellectual. Many of the athletes that I encounter on campus express they chose Guilford because of athletics. I find this sentiment problematic, since as the NCAA itself states in the first sentence of their mission, “Academics are the primary focus for Division III student-athletes.”

While athletics is supposed to take a back seat to academics, to many faculty members it often seems that the opposite is true.

Further, the motives and desires of many student-athletes do not always seem to equate with the liberal-arts ethos that many on this campus work hard to create and maintain.

Though a professor, I do not profess to know the answer to the un-addressed and latent strain between traditional students and student-athletes, but I do know that it will remain without conversation and authentic sharing. If you think so too, then please look for the Conflict Resolution Resource Center forums on this topic next semester. CRRC is in the process of planning to create space and structure to have these important conversations within the campus community.



A frustrated, egg-headed, privileged and incredibly invested faculty member and conflict resolution professional — Jeremy Rinker, visiting assistant professor of peace and conflict studies and co-director of CRRC

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