Plagiarizing parts of Stanford U’s letter: Students, staff subject to the Honor Code. So, what happens to W&M’s athletics director?

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The College of William & Mary announced on Sept. 3 the university would cut seven sports including the men's and women's swim team, effective for the 2021-2022 academic year. (WYDaily/ Courtesy of Save Tribe Swimming's Facebook page)
The College of William & Mary announced on Sept. 3 the university would cut seven sports including the men’s and women’s swim team, effective for the 2021-2022 academic year. (WYDaily/ Courtesy of Save Tribe Swimming’s Facebook page)

Samantha Huge, William & Mary’s athletics director, released a statement about the open letter she along with other college administration staff sent to the community announcing the university’s decision to cut seven varsity sports programs effective next year.

W&M’s open letter has direct quotes and similarities to Stanford University’s open letter released July 8.

The following photos show both university’s letters with highlighted similarities or verbatim sentences:

In response, Huge wrote the following in the Sept. 18 “Statement regarding communications about the future of Division I athletics at William & Mary”:

“As the leader of William & Mary Athletics, I affirm that the department’s and university’s integrity is paramount. I acknowledge the concerns raised by some members of the W&M community regarding the athletics communications on September 3, specifically the similarities to those of other institutions.

As we prepared to announce the very difficult decision to eliminate seven varsity programs, we consulted with professional colleagues and peers at several institutions, including Stanford University. We were seeking to engage a thoughtful process, then communicate those actions as respectfully as possible.

Our goal was to emulate best practices, not imitate. We clearly fell short of the William & Mary community’s standards. Upon reflection, we should have taken more care with the review of the materials we shared with our community.

At the end of the day, regardless of the drafting process, I take responsibility and we will do better. Above all, the goal was to convey respect to those most directly affected. I regret very much that we did not meet that goal.

In the coming weeks we will share, with more transparency, our process and the data that led us to our decision regarding Division I athletics.”

This news comes after the William & Mary decided to cut seven varsity athletic programs effective in the 2021-2022 academic year: Men’s and women’s swimming, men’s and women’s gymnastics, men’s indoor and outdoor track and field, and volleyball.

Huge announced the decision to student athletes in a six-minute Zoom meeting.

Samantha Huge (WYDaily file/Courtesy of Tribe Athletics)
Samantha Huge (WYDaily file/Courtesy of Tribe Athletics)

“As a department, we simply can no longer continue on an unsustainable financial trajectory,” Huge wrote in a Sept. 3 letter to the community.

Several athletes, including members of the swim team, parents and college alumni started a group to Save Tribe Swimming to get the sport reinstated.

“The way that it was handled was really poor and lacked any compassion and empathy,” said Jeff Crisci, W&M alum and vice president for Diligent.

Kelley, his wife, is the assistant swim coach for the men’s team and a swim team alum. Their son, Flynn is a member of the swim team, a sophomore at W&M.

So far, Save Tribe Swimming has raised $1,052,004.13 and has received 744 pledges.

Their goal is $4.5 million.

W&M response

WYDaily asked Pete Clawson, Tribe Athletics spokesman, why Huge copied the letter.

Clawson referred WYDaily to Huge’s previous statement she made on Sept. 18.

The university’s Honor Code, which includes a section on Honor Code violations such as cheating and plagiarism, applies to students and faculty members.

“The university’s Honor Code is based upon the premise that a person’s honor is their most cherished attribute,” according to the college’s website. “While we endeavor to create a climate of honor that is self-sustaining, it is imperative that all members of the community work to uphold the Code.”

“Students, faculty, administrators and other members of the community are encouraged to take action when they believe that any person may have violated the Honor Code; although failure to take action is not, in itself, a violation of the Honor Code, it detracts from the community of trust.”

Plagiarism is defined as “with intent to deceive, or with disregard for proper scholarly procedures of a significant scope, of any information, ideas or phrasing of another as if they were one’s own without giving appropriate credit to the original source,” according to the university’s Honor Code violations page.

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