A Wall Street Journal article out today shines a lantern on how many of America’s colleges have been cutting country club sports in recent weeks. And while some of these colleges are citing only budgetary constraints, other colleges are being more forthright in citing a combination of budgetary constraints and a desire to limit the number of slots earmarked for recruited athletes in admissions. As one can guess, sports like squash, equestrian, crew, and the like aren’t exactly sports filled with applicants from underrepresented and/or low-income backgrounds. Swimming and diving is no exception in that the sports attract generally white students from privileged backgrounds. In fact, we would argue that USA Swimming has done a dreadful job over the years of diversifying the sport (see the photo above which we happen to be in as an example). But by eliminating a swimming and diving team, what college administrators may not realize is that they are eliminating a pipeline for one particular group of diverse students to become members of the school’s community: LGBTQ students.
The Sports of Swimming & Diving Are Brimming with Proud LGBTQ Athletes
USA Swimming, through the organization’s history, doesn’t like to talk about it. College swim teams often don’t talk about. But swimming and diving are sports brimming with LGBTQ athletes. And while there are LGBTQ football players and baseball players, soccer players and lacrosse players, in our experience, there are more out LGBTQ college athletes on swimming and diving teams than on just about all other men’s college varsity athletic teams. These statistics, for the most part, simply aren’t kept. Many colleges don’t ask students to identify their sexual orientation on their college applications and — even if they did as some indeed do — moms and dads are looking over these students’ shoulders. These students may very well not feel comfortable coming out on their college applications because it means coming out to their parents. Also, many students don’t choose to come out as members of the LGBTQ community until their college years — until they’re surrounded by the friends they’ve made on, say, the swimming and diving team.
By Cutting Swimming & Diving for the Sake of Diversity, College Administrators Likely Unknowingly Cut LGBTQ Representation
It wouldn’t surprise us one bit if college administrators, deans of admission, and athletic directors are totally unaware that by eliminating swimming and diving teams, they are effectively reducing the number of LGBTQ students on their campuses — which is unlikely their intent since the move is intended to support diversity. And while the vast majority of these swimmers and divers are not from low-income backgrounds and far too many of them are white in sports that badly need to diversify — last we checked, LGBTQ young people remain a minority in America. College presidents, deans of admission, athletic directors, you likely didn’t realize that by cutting the swimming and diving teams you were effectively curtailing the LGBTQ representation on your campuses. We’re here to tell you that you’re doing just that. How do we know? We speak from experience. We swam on Dartmouth’s swimming and diving team. We were openly gay at the time. And we weren’t alone.
College swimming and diving teams aren’t as diverse as they should — and must — become in the years to come. But these are sports with great LGBTQ representation. We hope this post brings this truth to the attention of those in power. Save Dartmouth Swimming & Diving and all college swim teams across the land.
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