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The Carletonian

Carleton SAAC increases membership totals

<ent-Athletic Advisory Committee system, or SAAC for short, was founded in 1989 by the NCAA to enable student athletes to provide insight on the student athlete experience, promote athletics, provide community service, and offer input on NCAA legislation.

The Carleton SAAC, led by President Emily Kaegi ’18 and Vice President Quinn Johnson ’19, runs annual events such as the Carleton triathlon, Homecoming, Halloween Knight Carnival, and partners with the Special Olympics three times per year. In addition, the SAAC votes on NCAA Division III legislation, which counts toward the National SAAC vote at the NCAA convention, and is also in charge of the concession stands at Carleton athletic events.

The Carleton SAAC is the group behind the scenes that are the representatives for the student-athlete voice on campus. Keenan Moore ’20, a representative for the Carleton baseball team, believes this to be the most important role of the SAAC. “SAAC gives student athletes a voice,” he said. “When all decisions and influences in the athletic department are centered around the faculty, the most important group of people to the department, the athletes, are left out. SAAC allows all student-athletes to have a say in not only the issues on campus, but around the NCAA as well.”

The SAAC had an extremely successful fall term in upping its membership numbers. “This year a big focus for the executive board is getting more people and teams involved with SAAC,” Kaegi said. “We’ve tried to make the meetings more interactive and spend more time breaking into groups to discuss plans or issues that come up in terms of athletics. While last year we had maybe 15-20 people coming to meetings, we had over 45 people at each meeting this fall as well as every team accounted for.” Because of this, the SAAC will have more of an impact on legislation or policies that affect student-athletes.

The SAAC is where the Carleton PEAR (Physical Education, Athletics, and Recreation) department goes to hear the students’ voices on pressing issues. SAAC is therefore able to influence changes made to PEAR-funded departments and athletic teams. Through cooperation with PEAR, an example of shift in policies according to Kaegi, was that she and “Nicole Nipper decided [they] needed more awareness and protocol in the athletic department surrounding mental health. So [they] created the Mental Health Resource Cards that were passed out to all athletes. SAAC provides a place for people to bring forward initiatives and ideas like this.”

Now, how can SAAC continue to improve and have more of an impact on campus? The first thing is to continue to grow membership. According to Moore, there are some student athletes who do not know about SAAC. He believes that more representatives would show more unity among student athletes on campus and strengthen their voice. Kaegi believes that increasing membership numbers would also allow the SAAC to “get a better sense of what members of all teams need and want as part of their athletic experience.” A second thing the SAAC can do is increase its social media and physical presence on campus. According to Johnson, this would allow students to “let them know what they are all about.” SAAC has started social media accounts (@CarletonSAAC) and plans to keep students updated on their events throughout the year. They have also promoted themselves through candy grams and posters around campus. Thirdly, according to Johnson, SAAC is working on “pairing up with groups/clubs on campus that are not related to athletics” to get each team to an arts-related event such as a play or a capella concert. This would allow student-athletes to become more integrated in the Carleton community and show their support for non-athletic endeavors.

Lastly, as many of you know, athletic events on campus are usually not well-attended. According to Kaegi, SAAC is working hard to promote athletic events to receive more student-wide support. “We want to do a better job celebrating Division III week this year which is one of our goals for this term,” she said. “Figuring what events we want to do as well as hope to promote Division III athletics at Carleton.” However, some believe this could be a tough road ahead. Moore believes low attendance at sporting events has more to do with the culture of the school than the influence of the SAAC. “Carleton students have a wide variety of hobbies and interests, and attending athletic events is not a high priority for many,” Moore said. “Within the athletic community, there is a lot of mutual support among the teams. Often, the students sitting in the front row at events are athletes themselves. SAAC has tried to promote athletics as much as it can, but lack of interest and tight finances have been huge barriers.”

Time will tell how much of an impact Carleton’s SAAC will have for student-athletes on campus. However, the growing membership totals from this year alone has been a big improvement from years past, and represents a huge step in making Carleton’s SAAC more active and influential.

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