Being a small liberal arts college, Muhlenberg students are urged to find communities to join within the institution as soon as they step foot on campus. This engagement could take several forms, as Muhlenberg has many different groups and organizations on campus that are always excited to recruit and welcome new members.
Some of the most prominent communities on campus are athletics and performing arts programs. Based on Muhlenberg’s encouragement for their students to get involved on campus with the vastness of extracurricular opportunities, it would make sense to think the biggest student-driven groups would attempt to integrate as many members of the Muhlenberg community as they can. Unfortunately, that is not necessarily the case.
In the case of student-athletes, it is clear they are cognizant of this separation. “I definitely think that there’s a division between non-athletes and athletes on campus,” said track & field thrower Erica Borbi ‘24. “I would say the biggest divide is between the athletes and the performing arts students.”
“I believe there is a divide between student-athletes and the rest of the student body,” said men’s soccer player Ethan Beyer ‘25. “The nature of being a student-athlete and all of the sport-specific practices, matches, and meetings related to that sport(s) make the divide very distinct.”
This social partition could be attributed to various factors. Student-athletes immediately have a group on campus to interact with, hindering the desire to extend their greetings to other students. “There is a lot of psychological data on the importance of social groups and social bonding,” said Department Chair of Psychology Stefanie Sinno, Ph.D. “So we know, there’s enough psychology research to note that athletes, particularly when they first start college, will congregate together because they’re building social bonds among their sports. We also see the same for sororities, clubs, and programming.”
Student-athletes also have a lot to balance with practices and workouts almost every day. “I believe the biggest separation between student-athletes and non-athletes is with people’s time management,” said tight end Zaki Williams ‘26. “Everyone is on completely different schedules and rarely gets to interact outside of classes.”
Issues of social identity for student-athletes are something to consider as well. “Their identification is as athletes,” said Sinno. “I think lots of humans find their identity markers and feel most comfortable with others in their identity. The challenge of only hanging with or talking with others of your same identity is that you miss out on diverse perspectives.”
Lastly, another component of this puzzle may be as simple as individual interest. Each student has hobbies or passions that could be unique to them or shared among other students, and it is safe to say athletes have a self-spoken enthusiasm for their sport. These alienations in interests could be a catalyst in this unspoken fissure, but regardless, a unified campus is a better community. “I think we would definitely have a stronger campus culture if groups supported each other,” said Borbi.
“Closing this divide would give students a better chance to understand all aspects of campus life and branch out into some areas they may not have heard about or experienced previously,” commented men’s soccer defender Kevin Adams ‘25. Student-athletes love supporting other student-athletes, and the same can be said of members within other groups on campus, but the line seems to be drawn there.
Whether you are a student-athlete or not, the next time you see a poster for a capella performance, an Instagram post about a play-off soccer game, or an email from a club you were thinking about joining– consider attending. Refusing to try, however, is what is preventing and will continue to split the Muhlenberg student population.