Student Athletes Face Obstacles in Joining Greek Organizations

6 min read

Despite the College’s commitment to an integrated athletic and educational experience, some student athletes at Trinity have encountered complications while trying to join a Greek letter organization.
No formal policy exists on whether student athletes can or cannot join Greek life.The College has consistently promoted a multifaceted liberal arts education, the likes of which may include an involvement in activities such as athletics and Greek life.
Michael Sienkiewicz, a Trinity College alumnus from the Class of 1960, was attending the 165th anniversary of St. Anthony Hall, this past October, when he met a student who was forced to choose between her sports team or joining a Greek letter organization.
“At the beginning of her sophomore year, the soccer coach called her down to the office,” Sienkiewicz wrote in a letter to President Berger-Sweeney and Director of Athletics, Michael Renwick. “To her surprise, she was told that if she joined a fraternity or sorority, she was off the soccer team.”
Sienkiewicz wrote that the coach’s tactic was beneath the standards of Trinity College and flew in the face of the “hallowedness” of an education received from a NESCAC institution. Neither President Berger-Sweeney nor Renwick responded to his letter, he added.
“New England DIII schools are considered virginal when it comes to their respect of the students and their right to stretch their wings and participate in whatever they choose. If they can balance a fraternity or sorority and play a sport, they should be allowed to do it,” Sienkiewicz said.
The student Sienkiewicz spoke with last October was Abbey Lake ’16. Lake, a member of St. Anthony Hall fraternity, played on the women’s soccer team at Trinity her freshman year. However, she left the team after she was given an ultimatum.
“I left the team because my coach made me choose between one or the other,” Lake wrote in an email. “I had to either accept my bid [to St. Anthony Hall] and turn in my jersey, or decline my bid and I could continue playing on the team.”
Lake was upset by her coach’s decision, saying that it discouraged her and other students from joining multiple groups on campus. She received help from members of her Greek letter organization, she added.
“My [Greek letter organization], including the president, alumni, and current brothers, supported me by trying to help get my spot on the team back in any way they could. They reached out to the director of athletics, the school president, and a dean of students to argue that at a Division III school athletes should be able to take part in Greek organizations,” Lake said.
Dean of Campus Life and Vice President of Student Affairs, Joe DiChristina, and Title IX Coordinator, Timothy Dunn, both said that Trinity does not have an official policy on whether student athletes can or cannot join a Greek letter organization.
Dean DiChristina, who took on his position this past August, wrote in an email that he was not aware of any students being prevented from joining.  Dunn however, who has worked at the college since 2013, was aware of certain issues, including the case with Abbey Lake.
Dunn, who served as Associate Director of Student Services for Social Houses until this year, said that it typically has been the coach’s prerogative to decide their policy towards their athletes joining Greek life.
Dunn also said coaches often suggest their athletes pledge and join a Greek letter organization in the off-season of their sports. He added that this approach can sometimes create problems when organizations only recruit new members at certain times in the academic year. At Trinity, the Greek life organizations Kappa Kappa Gamma and The Ivy Society only participate in fall recruitment.
Some sports teams, however, have more lenient policies towards their members participating in Greek life. Nia Vogel ‘18, a member of the swimming and diving team, and the Kappa Kappa Gama Sorority, was supported by both her team and her Greek letter organization.
“Some of my teammates were already in Greek life, and they really pushed me to rush in the fall. I am so glad that I did,” Vogel wrote in an email. “My coaches were also supportive, they told me they want to have the most well-rounded athletes as possible.”
Michael Renwick, the Director of Athletics at Trinity, said he was aware of certain instances in the past where sports teams were precluding their athletes from joining Greek letter organizations. However, the Athletics Department has worked with the Dean of Students to do away with that policy.
“Our current policy is that students need to be able to take part in all the extracurricular options that Trinity has to offer,” Renwick said. “Sports do take an exorbitant amount of time out of their schedule however, so there needs to be a certain commitment level and certain level of expectation from the students.”
Renwick also added that while he is not currently aware of any teams who prevent their players from joining Greek life, he is aware some coaches may not strongly support it.
“I’m sure coaches do probably paint some pretty grim pictures as to what participation in both a sports team and a [Greek life organization] may look like. Some may be, but most are probably not encouraging, but I think they’re protecting the fact that they want everyone on the team fully committed,” Renwick said.
Trinity, along with Wesleyan University, Hamilton College, and Tufts University, is one of four NESCAC schools who currently have Greek letter organizations. Su McGlone, the director of Fraternity and Sorority Life at Tufts University, said that there have not been any similar issues that she was aware of.
“At Tufts, there is a large crossover between athletes and members of Greek life. There are no policies encouraging or discouraging membership in both, and many of our students are able to be very successful in both areas,” McGlone wrote in an email.
The Tripod reached out to seven coaches from both the men’s and women’s sports teams, but none of them responded to a request for comment on their team’s policy on joining Greek letter organizations.

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