Ultimate Frisbee functions as a pseudo-Greek life system on our campus. I’ve written dozens of articles over the past four years for the Carletonian, at least ten of which are much better written than this one. But the fact remains that the only ones that get any attention are about Frisbee, or Ultimate if you prefer. That’s at least one indication of Carleton’s obsession with the sport. This is an opinion piece, not a sports article. I am not discrediting the work it takes to be a student athlete on any of the six Frisbee teams. I know that Frisbee players’ identities on campus are not only defined by their membership to these teams. I myself have never been in a sorority or on a Frisbee team. And I recognize that both Frisbee and Greek life can provide students with a home on campus, and a group of friends that they adore. I don’t want to discredit the positive aspects. My goal is to comment on how those teams impact and shape Carleton’s social scene, in my opinion, in a way that can negatively mirror aspects of Greek life.
One of the main reasons I came to Carleton was that it did not have sororities or fraternities. I didn’t care to be around people who score each other and admit or decline members based on those scores. I didn’t care for an exclusive social scene that was dominated by specific groups. But lo and behold, that’s exactly what I got at Carleton.
So many students go to a few practices and debate joining a team. Frisbee has some kind of magnetic, mysterious pull for a sport that very few people have heard of before entering college, let alone played in high school. Because of this, I would venture to say that people don’t necessarily join for the sport. They join for the friends, for the connections and social lives and parties that joining this institution provide. That’s the same reason all of my friends from home join fraternities and sororities.
Induction into the teams, or at least those that cut players, involves a meeting to pick members. Since there are no coaches to make these decisions, the process is entirely internal, unlike other sports on campus where your entry is designated by coaches. It’s not only about your athletic skills, it’s also about your personality. You’re scored on how well you’d fit into that group. Please tell me how that is any different than Rush Week.
Joining Ultimate involves a fairly pricey financial burden. You’re paying for access to the sport and a specific team. The price tag associated with joining is comparable to dues in Greek life. These funds serve as access barriers for many students, effectively restricting who can join and thrive in that social circle.
People join Greek life for the status it will give them, the entry they’ll get into parties and alumni they may meet. By going to exclusive events like Frisbee Prom (which is interestingly a national event at many “chapters” of Frisbee teams) and parties almost every weekend, you acquire your own status within that organization and join a new social circle. One of my friends who graduated was sickened by how her roommates functioned as makeshift Frisbee WAGs, constantly wearing their boyfriends’ CUT apparel and debating which of their boyfriends’ teams was better. I’ve overheard jokes as well as serious proclamations of how Frisbee players only hook up with one another. From an outsider’s perspective, you’re putting all your eggs into one shallow basket. Everything is internal and exclusive; you feel powerful because you can name-drop people on other Frisbee teams and say you’re going to XYZ party. You feel like you have status on campus, and maybe you do. Maybe that’s why you join Greek life.
My friends from home say they join sororities because of the “sisterhood,” and knowing that someone has their back on campus. When a member of Syzygy exclaimed the N-word at a party, and the predominantly white team was accused of singing along to racially inappropriate lyrics during their practices given their own backgrounds, the captains jumped to defend their team. These exchanges were published in the CLAP months ago. In this case, there is certainly a policy of unrestrained defense, even when the captain acknowledged that the event happened. Frisbee players are self-regulated; they aren’t suspended from playing in a game if they say or do something inappropriate. They’re an internal group, sanctioned and defended by their teammates. That sounds like an extreme sisterhood if I’ve ever heard of one.
The one incident I find most appalling was the CUT condom incident circa 2017. A member of the team purchased condoms with the CUT insignia printed on them. Not only is this an extension of Frisbee’s obsession with logos (reminiscent of insignias and roman numerals), this is also disgusting. It’s a form of imprinting and parading your status as a member of a group during sexual experiences. My friend, who plays on a woman’s team, partially justified this by saying that it was a freshman that bought the condoms. As if that makes it any better. If anything, the fact that a freshman on the team concocted this idea means that he was already indoctrinated into an atmosphere of toxic masculinity and felt comfortable making this purchase. After all, Frisbee is self-funded, so I doubt he paid for the condoms all on his own. A negative hallmark of fraternities is that they create an atmosphere of toxic masculinity. That’s exactly what I observe happening on these teams.
Frisbee culture has spread its tentacles so wide and deep; I’m assuming many people know of these incidents. You undoubtedly have a friend who took a deep dive into Frisbee culture and are so engulfed below the surface they rarely come up for air to discuss anything outside of that organization. There’s so much more I’d love to comment on: how Frisbee teams expect special treatment by the administration (like fraternities and sororities) despite the fact that they are a club team and Carleton does not post about club teams on social media; or how a men’s team ranked the attractiveness of players on a woman’s teams. There’s not enough room on this newspaper to do so. But the bottom line remains that I think our Frisbee organization functions as Carleton’s exclusive Greek system.
It must be nice to be that passionate about something on this campus. It’s the same sort of adoration I know people have for their sororities and fraternities. But I’ve always been content keeping my distance. I don’t care to be a part of an exclusionary group that often justifies its actions with little restraint. I never cared to be associated with our Greek life. There are problems with any organization on campus. This is just the one that receives the most attention and adoration.
Remember, this is an opinion piece. You don’t have to like this op-ed or agree with me. You don’t have to read this. But I’m glad you did. I worked on the Carletonian for four years because I appreciate freedom of the press and freedom of speech. I like to exercise those rights. Use that freedom too. Write. Don’t just complain amongst a group that already agrees with you. If you cannot read or hear the opinions of others, your Carleton liberal arts education and maturity levels have failed you.