The University has been home to a rugby team for over 100 years and, until recently, the team has been strongly supported by the University’s Recreational Sports Department. So it came as a bit of a shock last week when the University’s Rugby Football Club was threatened with removal of funding and derecognition as a club sport. Their crime? A feature article in the Daily mentioned the social aspects of the sport – occasionally involving parties held jointly with opposing teams. Funding was temporarily cut until the team wrote a letter of apology to the Daily to the University community, expressing regret for implying through their quotes that some of the team members may have indirectly encouraged imbibing.
There are several problems with this situation. First, the University is being altogether too harsh on a relatively harmless activity. RecSports should never withhold funding from a club sport simply because some members of the team are willing to admit they in engage in the occasional bout of responsible drinking. An organization such as RecSports understandably has an interest in protecting its public image and disciplining its players when they act with genuine impropriety. However, this was certainly not the case with the rugby team’s exploits.
While the University does provide funding for the rugby team, it should not incessantly strive to dictate the off-field activities of players through the explicit threat of eliminating funding from the rugby team. This response to the implication of drinking should serve as a reminder to all concerned students that the University still maintains an interest in regulating the lives of its students. The desire to reassert the in loco parentis role of the University is a disconcerting sign that a puritanical ethic – traditionally associated with single-sex residence halls and student curfews – is still alive among certain University administrators.
Responsible drinking, despite the opinion of RecSports, is a normal and acceptable part of college life for those who choose to partake. As David Brooks wrote about the Kenyon College football team in a December issue of The Weekly Standard, “By 1 a.m., they were drunk and getting gooey about their friendships – hugging and slobbering over each other. I’m sure they are learning important things from their professors, but even if they aren’t, they are getting their money’s worth out of their college experience.”
Drinking, when practiced safely, can be a convivial bonding activity which supplements the rigors and academic stress of life at the University. Having a few beers with members of an opposing team after a match is often an appropriate capstone to a day of athletic competition. By making rash, monetary threats against a team, RecSports shows it is more concerned about manipulating its own image than the social welfare of its athletes.