A Response To Colgate Professors', "Open Letter On Athletics At Colgate"

A Response To Colgate Professors', "Open Letter On Athletics At Colgate"

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It's the first day of class and the professor has everyone doing the dreaded ice breaker: say your name, where you're from, why you want to take the class, and what activities you're involved in outside the Colgate classroom. As your turn to "break the ice" approaches, you decide whether or not to say you're on a sports team. It's a toss up between your Raider pride and your student reputation; your athletic passion or (what could very well be) your academic demise.

Don’t get me wrong—there are many Colgate professors who support our double status, but there are also some that don’t. For example, in the middle of my freshmen year, 63 professors decided to draft and sign a document entitled “An Open Letter on Athletics at Colgate.” The letter expressed concerns about the place and impact of athletics within the university—a university said to solely be “for the [fundamental] advancement of intellectual work and academic life.”

I soon realized that this—what I interpreted as the professors’ disapproval of my sport and athletic passion—was something I was going to have to deal with for the next four years. In sports terms, this was a knock down. But just as in sports, getting knocked down only means getting back up and fighting. And so here, my fellow student-athletes, are some fighting words for any of you who happen to find yourself in the ring with a professor this year:

Dear Professor(s),

I think I speak on behalf of most Colgate student-athletes when I say that we are students first and athletes second. In the letter, you express the idea that athletics has “created two cultures on campus” and that “athletes are often isolated because of the immense demands on us.” However, I believe that adding “athlete” to our status on campus does not make us any less of a student. In fact, I believe that it enhances our status as a student.

As athletes, we are disciplined. We must manage our time effectively, work endlessly, and learn efficiently. We are the ones who study the syllabus, checking to see if we will miss any classes, assignments, or outside lectures; we are the ones who come to office hours, asking for help in case we’ve happened to miss a class or two; we are the ones who build strong student-professor relationships because we spend so many hours in your office; and, although it may not be the most ideal study space, we are the ones opening our books on the bus most Saturday nights.

So, while you believe that the travel and the games and the early morning practice hours leave us “exhausted,” I believe that it leaves us with a set of skills and virtues that only students can acquire by being an athlete as well.

In your letter, you also recognize that “interscholastic athletic teams are no longer seasonal activities.” You say that we are “conscripted into yearlong programs of team-life, training and competition;" that “coaches often dictate an inordinate portion of our daily, weekly, yearly schedules” and because of these demands, “we are isolated … cut off from mainstream campus culture and academic life.” You are right in saying that our sports are now yearlong programs, but you are wrong in saying that our coaches dictate an inordinate portion of our lives.

We choose to play our sport because we are passionate about it. We have a drive, a desire, a dedication. We are self-motivated to be a better version of ourselves. We are self-reflective. We know who we are today and know who we want to be tomorrow, and will do whatever it takes to get there. We know who we are as individuals and who we are as part of something bigger than ourselves. We are not told who we are or what to do. We have our own inner drive that many college kids may not have.

So yes, you’re right when you say we aren’t like other college kids. You’re right when you say we are isolated and cut off from mainstream campus culture, but that is only because as athletes, we serve a wider community.

We know that we cannot participate in some of the mainstream campus culture that other students can because we know we represent something bigger than ourselves. We are role models to the kids of the community and representatives of our team, of our school.

In the end, we are some of the most self-aware, self-reflective and self-cognizant students. And isn’t that at the core of intellectual advancement?

In your letter, you also state that “Colgate, like the rest of the colleges and universities in the United States, was founded for one purpose—the higher education of it's students;" you say that “the time commitment among Colgate student-athletes has reached a place of excess that has resulted in an encroachment on academic life in ways that are at odds with the fundamental mission of education at Colgate.” I understand that Colgate was “founded for the purpose of higher education”, but I also understand that Colgate was founded by thirteen men with thirteen dollars, thirteen prayers, and an extraordinary mission in mind.

Colgate was not founded to be like every other college, or at least that is what I thought. I thought that we were unique in the sense that we were more than “the advancement of intellectual work and academic life.” I thought we were here to understand different human conditions, become diverse, help others, and be globally versed. I thought that we were here to be well-rounded people.

You see, to me, “higher education” is something more than just intellectual inquiry and scholarship. A “higher education” is one that encompasses both intellectual pursuit and athletic pursuit. Having a Division One Athletics program, attracts students who not only want to compete at the highest level of sports, but, more importantly, want to study at the highest level. We student-athletes came here because we ultimately didn’t have to make a choice between advanced academics and advanced athletics. Here, we are able to receive the best of both worlds.

Student-athletes give Colgate diversity. We are the ones who have been juggling our sport with our schoolwork our entire lives; we are the ones who know how to cooperate well with others, communicate clearly, and work hard; we are the ones who “get it”. We get that these are probably the last four years playing our sport; we get that we probably won’t go play professionally or make it to the big leagues; we get that. So, that is why we came to Colgate—a college where we are not only able to play our sport for four more years, but, more importantly, where we are able to get a good education that sets us up for the rest of our lives.

Which brings me to my last point … the rest of our lives. As athletes, sports will always be part of our lives. The key word here that many professors seem to miss is part. Sports will not dominate us or rule us or control us after college; they will simply be one part, one aspect of our lives. After college, we will go out and find “real jobs;” we will make it in the “real world.” So, when you say that athletics at Colgate “comes at a cost to personal growth and academic progress,” that athletics hinders our success in the world, I say that is not true.

Colgate graduates 99 percent of all its student-athletes. It ties for the number one graduate success rate in the Patriot League and ranks fourth in the nation, only behind Brown, Dartmouth, and Notre Dame. Has bred some of the most successful people I know. It has not only bred successful scholars, but successful professionals and leaders who have taken their education outside the intellectual realm.

Look at Bob Woodruff. One of the best lacrosse players to ever go through Colgate, who is now co-anchor of ABC World New Tonight. Look at Mark Murphy. A four-year starter for the football team who is now President and CEO of the Green Bay Packers. And even take a look at our own Vicky Chun. Vicky is now our Athletic Director. But first, Vicky played and coached Colgate volleyball for many years. She is the only female athletic director in the Patriot League and one of just 28 women leading a Division One athletic department. I’d say these former Colgate student-athletes did pretty well with the rest of their lives. And, if you give us the chance, I believe that you, too, will someday be able to say that we did pretty well with the rest of ours as well.

Sincerely,

Lexi Panepinto, A Proud Student-Athlete

Cover Image Credit: Lexi Panepinto

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An Open Letter To Every Girl With A Big Heart, Except When It Comes To Herself

Because it's so much easier to love everyone around you before yourself.
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They say the key is that you have to "love yourself before you can love anyone else," or before "anyone can love you."

For those who deal with mass amounts of anxiety, or have many insecurities, that can be an extremely hard task. It seems much easier to tell your friend who is doubting herself that she looks great in that top than to look in the mirror and feel the same about yourself. It is much easier to tell your significant other that everything is going to be OK than to believe it will be when something goes wrong in your life. It becomes easier to create excuses for the ones around you than for yourself, and this is because you have such a big heart. You want those that you love to be happy and worry-free, yet you spend nights thinking about everything you have on your plate, about what you did wrong that day, fearing if someone in your life is mad at you, believing that you will never be good enough yet convincing everyone else that they are.

You are the girl with the biggest heart, yet you can't love yourself the way you care for everyone else in your life. There are many reasons that you should love yourself, though, and that's something that everyone around you is willing to tell you.

You're thoughtful.

Before doing anything, you always consider how it is going to affect those around you. You don't want to do anything that could hurt someone, or something that could make someone mad at you. It does not take much to make you happy, just seeing others happy does the job, and it is that simple. Because of this, you remember the little things. Meaningful dates, small details, and asking someone how their day was is important to you, and it makes those around you feel important too. You simply just want the people that you care about to be happy, and that is an amazing trait.

You're appreciative.

You don't need a big, fancy, and expensive date night to make you happy. Whether it's a picnic on the beach or a night in watching a movie, you're happy to just be with the person that you love. You appreciate every "good morning" text, and it truly does mean something when someone asks how you are. You tend to appreciate the person that you're with more than the things that they provide and for that, your sincerity will never go unnoticed.

You have a lot of love in your heart.

Every "I love you" has meant something, just as you remember the smallest moments that have meant the most to you. You remember the look in your significant other's eyes when they told you that for the first time. You remember the smile on your best friend's face when you told them that everything was going to be OK and that you would always be there. You remember the swell of happiness your parents felt when you decided to surprise them with a trip home one day, and you thrive off of all of that love.

You don't give up on the people you love, even if they have given you a reason to.

It is a foreign idea to just drop someone from your life, even if they betrayed you. You try to look at their mistake from every stance, not wanting to provide an excuse for them, but to give them another chance. Not everyone deserves it, and that is something that you learn along the way, but you feel good in the sense that you gave them a chance even if no one else would.

It's OK to not love yourself all the time. It's normal, and natural to stand in the mirror and think about everything wrong. And it's OK to love other people, even when you can't feel the same about yourself. But your big heart is why you should love yourself. There are so many reasons that you are a beautiful person, and the people that you spend all your time caring about feel that you have so much more to offer the world, and yourself.

So, next time you think about what you don't like about yourself, remember what makes you special –– the size of your heart and all of the love in it, and then share that love with yourself.

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The 1500 Is The Best Running Event In Track And Field

Arguing the merits of middle distance's crown jewel, the 1500m

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This past weekend, at the Emory Invitational outdoor track meet, I had the opportunity to run the 1500m. About a minute after finishing, I had already decided that it was the best running event in track and field.

Given the oddity of running 3.75 laps on a 400m track, it might not have seemed the most "clean" event, but the 1500 truly takes the gold.

The 1500 is the metric race equivalent of a mile. The mile, something we're all used to running in elementary school on up, is a perfect (almost) 4 laps on an outdoor track. But as we compete in metric distances, the 1500 is the standard middle distance, mile-like event on the track. And honestly, it is a great substitution.

The mile is an extremely physical event. It balances our bodies' systems of aerobic and anaerobic respiration in a harmonious ratio. It requires both strength and speed. And it always ends in a battle of wit and will.

But the 1500 has all of these things too, and more.

During my race, I was definitely going lactic sprinting down the homestretch. I was certainly relying on my aerobic base and my ability to kick down the competition. And I also used some, albeit weak, tactics to spin around other runners in the field.

The great difference is in the mental advantage.

3.75 laps is entirely different than 4. Starting on the backstretch and relying on pure adrenaline for that first 300m makes the last 1200 seem extremely manageable. The race flies by, and there is never a point where you are mentally straining, searching for that end in the midst of all those laps. By the time you start to really hurt, you have such a small distance left to run, and you can easily be carried through that with the excitement of the final kick.

Not to speak of the prestige. The crowd still roars at a good 1500m. All the teams cheer on the middle distance display at hand. It's the perfect distance at which the spectators are interested for the whole race. A great 1500 captivates the crowd and draws everybody to wait with suspense for the final kick. Who will prevail in such a test of tenacity and performance? A question like that can only be answered with a ferocious spirit that lies in the hearts of all the hungry middle distance racers.

The 1500 draws out the best in everyone at the stadium. The athletes racing it draw on a varied toolkit of both talents and strategies to outlast their competitors. The spectators, understanding the effort required, are drawn to the whole race. And the energy of the whole affair is electric.

At the end of the day, there are many track events which draw their own superstars. The sprints are crazy fast, and the long distance races boast incredible endurance. But if you're looking for one that's just plain exciting, look for the 1500m. You won't be disappointed.

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