By Meaghan Menzel
In a campus-wide memorandum sent out Aug. 15, Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. Xavier Cole announced that the department of athletics will now report to Student Affairs. In the memo Cole said, “This change was initiated to codify and strengthen working collaborative relationships already in existence between Student Affairs and student athletes at Washington College.”
The Department of Athletics is led by Director of Athletics Dr. Bryan Matthews, a former WC lacrosse player and graduate of 1975. According to Matthews, the director of athletics is responsible for “the varsity athletics, all athletic facilities, club sports, intramural activities, campus recreation, the waterfront, sports medicine, athletics communications, and the sports performance program.”
Cole said that Matthews’ position is “a very specialized job, and it requires a particular skill set. Managing athletics requires the director to have knowledge of being an athlete themselves. This is not always the case, but it is helpful when the director understands the stresses and demands of an athlete.”
Matthews said, “I have been the director of athletics since 1994… The director of athletics has reported to the [College] president since 1994.”
However, according to Cole, when President Mitchell Reiss’ fundraising duties increased, the department had to report to Chief of Staff Joe Holt. Now, the department will instead report to Student Affairs. This, according to Cole, is what would normally happen at a college of WC’s size.
This change should also benefit the College’s athletes. Cole said, “Students are student athletes, but they’re as much a scholar as they are an athlete.” This means they need a combination of academic support and human development, support which Student Affairs can provide.
Student Affairs is in charge of counseling, health services, drug and alcohol education, and academic support services. “It is always good to have them [the athletes] closer to the student support services than not,” he said.
Matthews said, “The Athletics Department (especially our head coaches) has always had an excellent working relationship with other departments on campus, including Student Affairs. This move provides opportunities for increased communication between the two departments.”
In this way, Student Affairs will be able to share their resources with student athletes more effectively. Cole said that student athletes have “a very difficult job which is to juggle their athletic schedule, their training, their practices, and then their academics. And many athletes do this at a very high level.”
WC has athletes who work hard to perform well on the field, but there are also students who work hard to make the Dean’s list as well, according to Cole. He said that bringing student athletics to Student Affairs can help bring athletes “closer into the programs that are offered socially and educationally to make sure that student athletes are woven into the fabric of student experience and not separated from it.”
This change also allows for other students to become more involved with sports even if these students are not athletes themselves. Cole said that other student organizations such as Student Government Association, Greek life, RAs, and Peer Mentors can, “plug in athletic events as part of their natural programming and activities and events.”
He believes this will not only help athletes but bring the entire college closer together as a community. “When student athletes are connected to other students, then other students also better support student athlete pursuits. So what we want in the end is for the entire Washington College community to feel connected to the athletics program and to the sports and teams themselves so they will go out and support the teams on the field,” said Cole.
Overall, the administration hopes that the change will be beneficial to the entire campus as a community, but it will also help give athletes the support they need.“We’re very proud of recognizing their accomplishments,” Cole said, “It’s not a very easy thing to do, and so the need and deserve all of our support.”