Despite the drizzle, the haze and the bitter chill, members of the football team entrenched themselves outside Alumni Hall and in the path of thousands of fans who had come to enjoy one sports program which will never be eliminated.
The real story wasn’t on the gym floor, where men’s basketball cozily had its way with Niagara Jan. 2. It was in front, in the foyer, where a dozen shivering athletes passed out pamphlets to any whose attention could even momentarily be diverted from the halftime scramble for a $2 pretzel.
It was a poetic juxtaposition-and a stunning show of solidarity and purpose from athletes whose days as collegiate competitors have been abruptly numbered.
Athletes are not the only students to have protested the teams’ elimination, announced suddenly by the Board of Directors on Dec. 13 and shortly thereafter to alumni through the mail.
The Torch reported on Jan. 29 that reaction to the cut is confused at best. The same edition carried two staff protests, one athletic group’s plea, and an extensive argument examining other alternatives.
A protest-sizable, sincere, and determined-has arisen in the wake of the announcement which strikes at the heart of the offhand utterances that condemn St. John’s students as apathetic.
The feedback is an invigorating sign of active interest within the student body; at stake is the athletic diversity and reputation of the school, the latter of which is its single most prominent quality and the mantle its students wear. The scope of the debate has been broadened. No longer just about athlete to student body ratios or team records, protesters have magnified the issue into something greater: a re-examination of what it means to be a St. John’s student.
Demonstrated here is a depth of reflection which, unfortunately, seems to only be tapped in rare and often critical circumstances.
Exactly how a school wants its students to see themselves-and, in turn, the student body’s image of itself-should always be examined. The debate over team eliminations has forced an issue that has been simmering since the construction of the Residence Halls: what does it mean to be a St. John’s student?
Yet, schools don’t thrive on conflict; they thrive on discourse. Despite the stirrings of school spirit and renewed self-examination since Dec. 13, the central issue still remains the future of football, track, and swimming.
It should be apparent by now that there is significant resistance to the closure of these programs-and not only from those most immediately affected. So as to not cause a breach between the administration and the student body, the two groups should already be in discussion. Could one of the cuts be rescinded?
Though the few grants and scholarships to athletes in these programs will not be terminated, the players have made their position very clear: they want the game. The money, for many, is peripheral-and inadequate compensation for the inability to compete.
Students, especially the athletes affected, have already argued that the administration doesn’t care for them-that the announcement was sudden and cold, an offhand and passive execution. The rift between students and administrators does not need to grow.
Athletes and students, in their opposition to the program cuts, have re-introduced the question of what St. John’s and its attendees are all about. Even a cursory examination of The Torch’s Jan. 29 issue shows that many have already come to dismal conclusions.
The questions raised are worth examining, but not under the taint of the debate.
Administration: talk with coaches and athletes. Attempt, at least, for compromise. Don’t let sentiments of suspicion become irreconcilable verdicts.