Letter to the Editor

Drew Baumgartner

Like the rest of campus, I read Jessica Newsome’s now infamous “Jocks” column, and like the rest of campus, I was appalled by shockingly uninitiated opinions. However, my surprise did not come from the contents of the column, but from the community’s reaction to it. I’ve been keeping tabs on the reader comments at lawrentian.com, and I’m afraid the vast majority of people have completely misinterpreted Jessica’s column.
Jessica goes out of her way to explain that not all athletes are “jocks,” and indeed, defines jocks as athletes who sit in the back of class, disturbing the proceedings. It’s a pretty specific definition – one that fortunately doesn’t fit a lot of people on campus.
The reader comments tend to ignore the specificity of this definition, and instead offer countless examples of people who are athletes, but otherwise don’t fit Jessica’s definition of “jock.” This is evidence of nothing other than that Jessica’s catchall definition of “student athlete” has a sound basis in reality.
In fact, there’s no way to disprove Jessica’s definitions, as they’re wholly based on very specific behaviors. Moreover, there’s no room for offense, since the definition only applies to people who accept that they act the way she describes. Every athlete who doesn’t fit this definition is a “student athlete” as she describes it.
Those cases were simple misunderstandings, but a couple internet commenters saw a notable connection between the column and the Genocide in Rwanda – seriously. Aside from being unbelievably disrespectful to the victims and survivors of those atrocities, it also misses a very important distinction about prejudice. Jessica never suggested that all athletes are second-class students because of the actions of a few, but simply drew our attention to those few.
The most disappointing thing about these proceedings is the degree to which it has shaken the campus out of its general state of apathy. As I write this letter, 21 comments have been posted on Jessica’s column – 21 more than the staff editorial drawing attention to security issues on campus, or the article that described the bigoted poster campaign against the GLOW house three years ago.
Why is this issue so contentious? Part of me wants to make a sly suggestion about thinking the student athletes doth protest too much, but I’m afraid the implication that our priorities are so far off balance is a little too scary for jokes.
-Drew Baumgartner