Arts & Culture, Sports

Poll: Arts events prove more popular than sports

More than 30 percent of undergraduates reported never having attended a varsity sports event

By and
Senior Staff Writer and Sports Staff Writer
Friday, April 12, 2013

Attendance at varsity sporting events tends to spike during night games and homecoming, said student athletes Patrick O’Neill ’15 and Brian Barr ’15.

Three quarters of undergraduate students reported attending an extracurricular event in the performing or visual arts at least once per month, whereas only a third said they attend varsity sporting events with the same regularity, according to a Herald poll conducted last month.

Over 30 percent of respondents never attend sporting events, but only 5 percent of students never attend arts events.

But, these trends were not universal among all students. Of students who reported playing on a varsity sports team, 86 percent attend games once per month or more, compared to only 22 percent of non-athletes.

Athletic Director Jack Hayes said it is important for universities to offer a variety of events for students to attend and activities that engage attendees.

“We encourage our student-athletes to go to as many non-athletics events as possible,” Hayes said.

Students responding to the poll results described a fundamentally arts-oriented campus culture without a strong sense of school spirit for sports teams.

“We are a pretty artsy school,” said Kirsten Belinsky ’15, who plays on the women’s soccer team. “Brown isn’t known for its athletics.”

“When people go to the gallery or something in the (Perry and Marty Granoff Center for the Creative Arts), it feels like a very authentically Brown experience,” said Brette Ragland ’13, board member of Sock and Buskin and Musical Forum, “while going to a football game doesn’t feel that way.”

Abigail Jones ’15, member of the women’s cross country and track teams, agrees that the arts have a larger following than sports. “If I could change anything about Brown, it would be more school spirit,” she said.

Jane Lancaster PhD’98, campus historian, said the perception of Brown as “artsy” may be a relatively recent phenomenon, possibly because of the incorporation of the visual and performing arts into formal academic departments during curriculum reform in the ’60s and ’70s.

“I don’t see Brown students as particularly sporty,” she added.

“Sports really aren’t on everybody’s radar here,” said Naomi Varnis ’16. “I really think that’s just the nature of the school that Brown is. If you wanted sports, you’d go to a big sports school, like the University of Texas or (the University of Mississippi).”

Leslie Bostrom, professor of visual arts and department chair, attributes attendance at sporting events to student’s desires to participate in a community.

“It’s very different with art. Both things are personal, but (the arts experience) is not as tribal. It’s more individual in a sense,” she added.

Students said athletes operate on different schedules and within separate social circles, affecting their interactions with the rest of the student body.

“The theater community and the sports community are both really self-selecting, isolating communities that only hang out with each other,” Ragland said.

“I think the (athletic) community runs on tighter circles, so athletes will support each other more so than non-athletes,” Belinsky said.

Jones said she observed trends in attendance at her own meets that support the poll’s findings. “As an athlete you expect to see your fellow (students) at sporting events, but the attendance is not always very good,” she said. “Even though the attendance isn’t great at sporting events,” most of the sparse crowd is populated by athletes, she said.

Other students raised issues of accessibility and convenience for different types of events.

Attending an a cappella concert or a theater performance is “much more accessible than a several hour long sports event in the middle of the day,” said Nate Wardwell ’14, former “Czar” of the Intergalactic Community of A Cappella, an umbrella organization for a cappella ensembles on campus. “The performing arts scene just sort of fits better into day-to-day life than the sports scene does,” he said, commenting on student’s busy schedules and many commitments.

“When you go to a sports event, you really commit two to three hours of your time, whereas you can go into (David Winton Bell Gallery) and be there for five minutes and see part of the show and come back out,” Bostrom said.

Attendance can be attributed to event timing and publicity, Hayes said. Even though events may be well-publicized, it is also a challenge to find times when everyone can go, he added.

“People don’t come to Brown because of athletics per se, but at the same time there have been a couple of football games where the attendance was great, like the Harvard game, so it just shows there is potential for Brown students to be interested in athletics,” said football player Patrick O’Neill ’15.

“The night games are something that attract more students to attend, and there should be more included to get more attendance at athletics events,” said Brian Barr ’15, a member of the swim team.

Students said extracurricular events in the arts and sports are supplementary to their academic commitments.

“You know the phrase, ‘Work hard, play hard?’” Wardwell said. “I think it means that (when) people … get down to work … they buckle into it, and then they’ll set aside time to be social.”

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  1. This poll is devastating confirmation of the stunning extent of student apathy at Brown with respect to athletics. A virtual complete and utter lack of school spirit. Nearly 1/3 of students never attend an athletic contest and about 2/3 either never attend or, at most, go once per semester. Brown leads the Ivies by a wide margin in apathy. Yale, another “artsy” school, rocks with student support for athletes, as do Princeton, Penn, Dartmouth and Cornell. Brown students’ complete lack of school spirit is not a badge of honor. It’s quite unfortunate and sad that Brown athletes, who train and compete no less fiercely than their Ivy peers, receive virtually no support from their fellow students. Brown students constantly clamor for “diversity” yet demonstrate a virtual universal distaste for and disregard of athletics. Note to AD Jack Hayes and Admission Director Jim Miller– fail to address this wholesale lack of school spirit at your peril. Student athletes don’t gravitate to colleges where their talents aren’t welcomed, appreciated or supported by their fellow students.

    • heyholetsgo says:

      The ivy league was created with the intention that people with a talent in sports do not take center stage at elite academic institutions. Brown is about academics and there is plenty of school spirit, just not for some sports recruits, who didn’t deserve their preferred (aka recruited) admission in the first place. Let’s say what Brown athletics really is- athletic mediocrity that believes to be professional and gets disproportional funding.
      However, I do think there is enough arts & performance places already and I would greatly appreciate if Brown could just stop building overly expensive buildings that benefits a minority in their spare time and lower tuition for everyone, NOT just increase financial aid for the very poor. A middle class can barely afford college and thus this extravaganza has to stop!!!!

      • No one’s talking about athletics taking “center stage” at Brown. That’s never been the standard. How about putting more than just a few students in the stands for games? 800 at an ECAC hockey playoff game (many of whom weren’t even students) is an embarrassment. 100 students at a basketball game? Are you kidding? Exactly where is the school spirit in evidence at Brown? Those “overly expensive buildings” that you rail against — they’re largely funded by alumni donors, many of whom are highly successful former Brown athletes who would readily concede that their athletic experiences at Brown played no small part in their career success. The “disproportional [sic] funding” that you complain Brown athletics receives — that funding is, to a significant extent, comprised of alumni contributions made, in may instances, by former athletes. Here’s a thought: Stop complaining long enough so you can stop by Aldrich Dexter Field and catch a game. Who knows, you may even enjoy it! If you need directions, let us know.

        • heyholetsgo says:

          Yeah, the old sports & donations argument. If this argument were legitimate, why don’t we just make admissions based on parent’s income, certainly an even better indicator of future contributions. Moreover, the sheer fact that jocks end up having better and higher paying jobs is almost solely due to the crony nature of Wall Street recruiting.

          The larger point is that Brunonians have something better to do than watching some mediocre Brown athletes do their thing. If I want to watch real Basketball, I go to a Celtics game. In any case, Brown has plenty of school spirit. We are proud of our academics, the open curriculum, the counter-culture, the intellectual atmosphere and so much more at Brown. Try to insult Brown and our grads will (verbally) rip you to pieces (I’ve seen it). If jocks feel the need to be admired and they cannot see where Brown’s school spirit is, maybe they should not go to an Ivy League school but a university where sports matters and is practices at a higher level…

    • Well, as a Penn State student, I can refute your claims. Over here, the athletes are looked upon as gods and untouchables. They get the best of everything. They get whatever they want at a lower cost. They are seen as celebrities. It’s quite sad. The academics especially in the liberal arts are ignored and cut. That’s the extreme side of it. Maybe Brown simply doesn’t have the best sports program and that’s the reason not many kids go to games.

  2. This is one of the reasons I came to Brown in the first place.
    Now the real issue is when will the university and it’s donors realize this and start incorporating suitable performance spaces into “building Brown” plans. Brown’s student creators and performers deserve better. This poll shows that there is clearly a demand. Let’s play to our strengths here…
    (Granoff is cute, but that only half counts. The building was made to win architectural awards, not for function.)

  3. To say that a Brown University football game doesn’t “feel like an authentically Brown experience” is absurd and rather offensive to students who play on the team and enjoy attending their games. Brown can be a different institution for different people and no student activity is more “authentic” than any other.

  4. The simple fact is Brown students stretch themselves so thin between heavy-duty academics and multiple extra-curriculars that no one has time (or feel they have time, anyway) to spend 2-3 hours at a sporting event.

    • Lame excuse, BH. Brown academic work-loads and extra-curriculars are no more “heavy-duty” than those at Yale, Dartmouth, Princeton, Penn or Cornell, whose students consistently turn out in large numbers for their schools’ teams. The sad truth is that Brown, more and more, attracts a different kind of student body that could care less about Brown sports and school spirit. A student body that likes to tout (if not preach) its tolerance and its diversity doesn’t seem to have much tolerance for student-athletes, and Brown students seem more and more homogenous in this respect each year. It’s not a healthy trend, and, as noted above, if Messrs. Hayes (AD) and Miller Admission Director) don’t address it, the trend doesn’t bode well for either Brown sports teams or the campus.

      • heyholetsgo says:

        By not caring, students are not intolerant, merely indifferent. If we want to talk diversity on campus, let’s improve the diversity of political opinions first, shall we (because in those regards Brunonians really are intolerant). The notion that Brown admissions can make Brown students apathy towards sports go away is imo futile. And again, I would argue that sports are a very sorry representation of school spirit and that first someone should make the point why we should recruit varsity athletes at all. Surely, the “diversity” they bring to campus is minimal (as well as their average academic achievements) and as you already pointed out they also do not contribute to school spirit…

    • Lame excuse, BH. Brown academic and extra-curricular workloads are no more heavy than those at Yale, Dartmouth, Princeton, Penn or Cornell, and those students consistently turn out in large numbers for their schools’ sports teams. The sad truth is that, more and more, Brown attracts a different kind of student body that could care less about Brown sports or school spirit. That student body likes to tout (if not preach) its tolerance and diversity but seems to have little tolerance or respect for Brown student-athletes and the contribution that they make to the campus. This is a disturbing trend, and, as noted above, unless Messrs. Hayes (AD) and Miller (Admission Dir.) address it, the trend does not bode well for Brown sports or the campus.

  5. Really interesting results and, to a UK-based student, highlights our perceived separation between Arts and Sports schools. It’s a shame really because a rounded student has a foot in each camp, in my opinion, but then we don’t ‘recruit’ anyone for their ability to become a professional athlete.

  6. Robert White says:

    Arts and creativity are such things no body would not want to indulge into. Weather one is a sports person or academician, one cant say no no to these things as these favors recreational activities for them. some think that extracurricular activities in arts and sports are supplementary to their academic commitments.

  7. This is enlightening and surprising. I thought with all the technology distractions this generation didn’t appreciate arts as much as previous generations. Either way, I think sports is just as important arts. Turn out and buzz about events can also be dependent on how well the event was advertised. It would be interesting to see the different methods used in organizing the sports vs the arts events.

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