I still remember my spring 2003 Little League batting average. It was .000. So, I’m speaking as a NARP when I say this: varsity sports are the worst thing about Bowdoin’s culture.

When I first came to Bowdoin, I felt immediate pressure to join a team. I went to rugby practices for four days, got named on the Frisbee team, had a fling with club cycling, but haven’t stayed in any of these groups. Why did playing a sport at Bowdoin feel like a crucial part of fitting in?

At a school as small at Bowdoin, a large percentage of students are athletes. According to the most recent Office of Postsecondary Education data, just over 43 percent are varsity athletes. Students feel this divide. In a recent poll administered by Professor Michael Franz and students in Gov 2080, 29 percent of students said that “Athletes/non-Athletes” is the “greatest point of division among students on [Bowdoin's] campus.” This result came nestled between Race (29 percent) and “The 'Culture' of Political Dialogue” (27 percent). Keep these other results in mind.

Two years ago, an Orient article explored the divide between athletes and everyone else. This article did a fair job of representing the differing experiences of students on campus. However, the piece ultimately suggests that we need to “grow past” the divide, as “social barriers come down as you get older.” As a counterpoint, consider the tweet pinned to the top of the Bowdoin Men’s Lacrosse twitter profile, which lauds “STUDENT” athletes for getting jobs at the likes of Barclays, SSGA (an asset management firm) and the Bank of Montreal. Given that this group of white male lacrosse players got similar jobs, the influence of varsity athletics clearly isn’t limited to our time at Bowdoin.

As I’ve mentioned, Bowdoin students feel (slightly) more divided over race than athletics. However, it would be unproductive, if not impossible, to separate out these two categories. Many sports that are felt to be socially exclusive—ice hockey, field hockey, lacrosse, baseball—are dominated by white, cis-gendered bodies.

Sports programs cost money. According to the OPE, the grand total of expenses on varsity athletics is $7,154,057. Of course, much of the funding for athletics comes from donations specifically for athletic teams. However, what does it say to an incoming first year that Bowdoin is willing to pour so many resources into what is, for all intents and purposes, an entertaining pastime?

Competitive sports hold binary oppositions sacred. The logic of student athletics is the same that drives all sports: a win is always worth pursuing, and can be measured easily. The same culture of aggressive competition that defines sports can be found in the hyper-competitive and self-interested work of financial institutions.

Sports clearly take up a massive amount of resources at our college, particularly the time of students. In a 2013 Orient article about the academic experiences of student-athletes, men's club rugby player Ezra Duplissie-Cyr ’15 described a typical day of practice: “Two hours a day at practice translates to a two-hour practice, a half-hour dinner with the team, minimum, and a half-hour of cleaning up and getting ready to do work.” This is an enormous amount of time that athletes invest in their sport.

When you’re recruited as an athlete, you have a social group before you ever get to Bowdoin. Bowdoin admits a wide range of bright, hard-working students that are intrinsically naïve and uneducated. But what happens when those students are segregated into groups of people all have the same gender, body type, and often race and social class? It’s no wonder that students find “The 'Culture' of Political Dialogue” to be such a problem at Bowdoin. The separation between athletes and non-athletes affects the conversations on campus, as well as the access that students have to career networks and future employment.

We can never have a healthy discourse when students are fed into a system of social compartmentalization that the college reinforces. By May 2000, Bowdoin rid itself of fraternities that were perpetuating a toxic campus culture. But disbanding frats didn’t eliminate the culture of division and hierarchy that fraternity life represents. Sports can be healthy and exciting ways to spend time, but that shouldn’t come at the expense of student life.