Motion proposed for a vote of no confidence in W&M athletics director; calls for dismissal or resignation

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W&M Athletics Director Samantha K. Huge leads the W&M men's swim team and CAA champions for on-field recognition in spring 2019. (WUDaily/Courtesy of Tribe Athletics)
W&M Athletics Director Samantha K. Huge leads the W&M men’s swim team and CAA champions for on-field recognition in spring 2019. (WUDaily/Courtesy of Tribe Athletics)

A faculty member at William & Mary is filing a motion for a vote of no confidence in Athletics Director Samantha Huge after she, along with the university’s president and provost, announced seven sports programs would be cut effective next year.

Suzanne Hagedorn, associate professor of English and director of the undergraduate program in English of Arts & Sciences, sent the draft of the motion to her colleagues in the Arts & Sciences department on Monday, giving them 24 hours to review it before their Tuesday afternoon meeting.

The motion is for a vote of no confidence in Huge because the lack of faculty involvement about the sports programs getting cut, the overall realigning of the athletics department and the academic integrity of the university, following the plagiarism of the open letter by Huge, according to the motion.

“This motion may be revised based on feedback from a wider group of faculty, and may be amended once it is put on the floor to debate,” she wrote in an email to WYDaily.

In the email she sent to colleagues, Hagedorn wrote she plans to introduce the motion in the New Business section of the meeting or earlier if approved and colleagues could send her feedback to make amendments to the motion prior to Tuesday’s meeting.

In the motion, Hagedorn described Huge’s plagiarism and how if a student plagiarized, they would have violated W&M Honor Code, and Huge’s strategic plan for the athletic department to focus on football and basketball was done “without consulting widely among W&M faculty in violation of the norms of shared governance at this institution.”

There were four motions in total: The first addressed the lack of confidence in Huge’s “continued leadership of W&M athletics.”

The second called Rowe and the W&M Board of Visitors to “dismiss or accept the resignation of Huge as soon as possible and replace her with a new Athletics Director.”

The third motion asked Rowe and the Board of Visitors to have a new ”Athletics Task Force” made up of faculty, staff and students for a new strategic plan for the department.

Lastly, the fourth motion wanted all seven teams to be reinstated “pending further review and consideration by the Task Force.”

She also linked to the Save Tribe Swimming’s open letter to Rowe, the BOV and the college community and a slideshow from the groups’ Facebook page.

The no confidence is in Huge’s leadership specifically on the lack of “honesty” and the “copying of the Stanford stuff.”

“Our motions have no legal authority,” she said. “We cannot dismiss her [Huge] and frankly, it’s just an opinion poll…but we have moral authority.”

“The two things that faculty really care about is one, faculty governance and two, academic integrity,” she added.

Hagedorn said the faculty was not consulted about the athletic department’s strategic plan and Huge did not show up for the faculty meeting in March.

“Essentially she basically sidelined us,” Hagedorn said, adding historically, faculty has been involved in shared governance at W&M. “Faculty should have some input.”

She said she was “appalled” by the 2025 strategic plan.

Most faculty did not know about the strategic plan until the sports cuts and while Huge may have had a legitimate reason why she missed their March meeting, the lack of follow through proved questionable, Hagedorn said.

“She made no attempt to get widespread comment because she did not want it,” Hagedorn said, adding the university is not Texas A&M, where Huge previously worked. “That’s her vision for athletics, it’s not William & Mary’s.”

As for academic integrity, Hagedorn said the plagiarism of the open letter was concerning.

“I’ve had students kicked out at this college for doing the things that Huge did,” Hagedorn said. “It becomes highly problematic for us to insist on no copying, cite your sources…if we have members of the faculty that are doing whatever.”

Hagedorn is also the secretary of the Arts and Sciences as well and has taught at the university for 22 years.

Some staff have already sent her emails with support after she spoke at the Board of Visitors listening session on Sept. 23.

But there is a chance the faculty could vote against the motion on Tuesday not for lack of support but rather the motion itself. Hagedorn said the motions passed in the Arts & Sciences are more “curriculum in nature” and “not more wide ranging” as this motion might be considered.

“There will be a debate then there will be a vote,” she said. “It’s just an opinion poll but I think opinion polls are powerful.”

She will make a motion to discuss the proposed motion sooner at the Arts & Sciences meeting. The motion will be discussed, voted on and finalized at the Arts & Sciences faculty Zoom meeting Tuesday afternoon.

Hagedorn said the motion “could just die there” but if it passes, she will ask the faculty representative to introduce the motion at the Faculty Assembly meeting next week or introduce it herself if another Faculty Assembly representative “seconds” her.

If the motion passes at the Faculty Assembly meeting, the secretary of the Faculty Assembly will send the motion to the provost and the board of vistors.

“We’re just expressing our views,” Hagedorn added. “It’s just an opinion poll but it’s a powerful opinion poll.”

The Faculty Assembly meeting — which is made up of faculty representatives from each school who advise Rowe and Agouris — is on Tuesday, Oct. 13 via Zoom.

‘Strategic realignment’

On Sept. 3, Huge along with W&M President Katherine Rowe and Provost Peggy Agouris signed an open letter announcing seven sports teams would be cut in the 2021-2022 year: men’s swimming, gymnastics and outdoor and indoor track teams and the women’s swimming, volleyball and gymnastics teams.

The open letter stated that because of the coronavirus pandemic, the cuts needed to happen. Parts of the letter were plagiarized with full sentences and paragraphs taken from Stanford University’s open letter on July 8 announcing their decision to cut several of their sports programs.

The discovery of the plagiarism prompted Huge and Rowe to release statements six days apart. Huge wrote she had consulted with Stanford and other universities. Rowe said the letter did not rise to the college’s standards and it was a mistake.

It remains unclear why W&M copied parts of the letter and Agouris has not released a public statement addressing the issue.

On Sept. 23, the student assembly read their For the Bold Resolution at the W&M Board of Visitors’ listening session for athletics, faculty and alumni following the plagiarism discovery. The resolution called accountability for the seven-minute Zoom call where athletes and staff were informed of the sports cuts, and the administration’s lack of transparency about the decision to cut the programs “appalling.”

The same day, Arthur H. Bryant, an attorney with Bailey & Glasser LP, sent a letter to Rowe threatening a Title IX lawsuit on behalf of the women’s sports teams that were cut if the sports were not reinstated.

The university’s attorney, Carrie Nee, told Bryant W&M would not have to reinstate the sports in order to comply with Title IX. Instead, W&M proposed cutting the roster of some of the men’s teams including football and adding roster spots to some of the women’s teams.

W&M’s response

WYDaily reached out to Suzanne Clavet, spokeswoman for the university, to see if W&M had heard about the motion regarding Huge and if they wanted to comment on the motion.

She was not immediately available for comment.

The following are excerpts from the Tribe Athletics Strategic Review plan for 2025.

“Greater success in football and men’s and women’s basketball will be particularly important in building a closer community and expanding school spirit,” according to the W&M Tribe Athletics 2025 Strategic Review Plan.

The plan noted these particular sports were important in ”strengthening the community” and the PICTOR Group strategic review in 2018 noted 23 varsity sports was “not sustainable” — “William & Mary must make decisions on the size and scope of its athletics program.”

“The review indicated that progress in athletics would depend upon a combination of increased athletic-generated revenues, reallocation of operating budgets and increased philanthropic support,” according to the 2025 strategic review plan. “And specifically, the three most impactful community building and revenue-producing sports – men’s basketball, women’s basketball and football – need greater emphasis to maximize their potential for the department and university.”

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