W&M alumni sign pledge not to donate; open letter sent to Rowe demanding reinstatement of cut sports

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Alumni and college donors have signed a pledge to not donate to the College of William & Mary until the seven sports teams have been reinstated and other demands. (WYDaily/ Courtesy of Tribe Athletics)
Alumni and college donors have signed a pledge to not donate to the College of William & Mary until the seven sports teams have been reinstated and other demands. (WYDaily/ Courtesy of Tribe Athletics)

William & Mary alumni have joined together to demand the seven sports teams cut by the university to be reinstated or else…no more funding.

The Pledge Not To Donate, signed by mostly college alumni and parents, had a list of demands, too.

The pledge

David Hildebrand, men’s swimming alum, who created the pledge wrote in a text that he received support from the Save Tribe 7.

The Pledge Not to Donate states the supporters would stop sending money “to all schools, departments, libraries, museums, scholarships, fellowships, endowments, and any other services and opportunities within the institution” unless W&M reinstated the teams, among other requirements.

The pledge notes the donations will not resume until the administration issues a “public apology to the student-athletes “who have experienced emotional up heal” due to the sports cuts. It also demands more transparency from the administration.

In addition, the pledge noted the administration need to uphold the honor code by applying the same consequences to staff.

“We’ve actually intended to put out the pledge the day before her [Samantha Huge’s resignation] and then we were curious to see what happened with the no confidence vote,” Hildebrand said. “Then we decided to hold off and see what kind of communication came from the administration.”

Once W&M announced Huge’s resignation, he said he felt the university looked at the athletics director’s role as “something separate” than reinstating the teams.

“It became more important to express our resolve for the reinstatement of the teams,” he added.

Hildebrand said the annual donations to the varsity sports teams have decreased and the sports alumni are “dissatisfied with the school in general.”

“We have now reached the point where we now reflect that in our giving,” he said, adding alumni give money to other departments and schools at W&M, too. “We realize that the squeaky wheel gets the grease, other sports have been cutting back on their donations and they continue to get support from the college so apparently it’s not good enough that we strive to make ourselves self-sustaining.”

While he understand some teams might not be reinstated, Hildebrand said he wants an “honest, good faith effort” from the administration.

He plans to keep the pledge open for signatures in the meantime and mail the pledge to the university.

“It’s understandable if the president and her staff were over the last say, week or so, were determining how to handle Ms. Huge’s status at the college but now that she is no longer there, someone has to respond to our requests,” Hildebrand said.

He noted the college is looking for solutions to the sports cuts and the athletics path forward and he, along with other alumni, parents and student-athletes, are telling the administration they have solutions.

“The ball remains in their court.”

So what does the part about the Honor Pledge mean?

Hildebrand said he exposed the plagiarism on Sept. 13 in an editorial and noted “it took them [the administration] three weeks to do nothing.”

While Huge has resigned, he noted “there are two other signatories on the letter, both of whom are still calling the shots at the college” referring to W&M President Katherine Rowe and Provost Peggy Agouris.

When asked if he wanted them to resign or get fired, Hildebrand said he wants some sort of consequence since W&M’s Honor Code applies to students, faculty and staff. He wants transparency and he is not sure how this can be achieved if the administration is “not even held accountable.”

“I don’t want to speak for everybody,” he said. “We don’t want the hypocrisy of the double standards, if we are going to call ourselves one community then the same expectations need to be applied to everyone.”

Open letter

Wednesday, Save Tribe Swimming Executive Committee sent an open letter to Rowe, Board of Visitors Rector John Littel and the new interim athletics director, Jeremy Martin, Rowe’s chief of staff, giving them 48 hours to reinstate the teams or meet with the committee this week.

“Simply put, waiting until November to decide the fate of these students is unacceptable,” the letter stated. “We request that these discussions include the full Tribe Club Executive board, representatives from the BOV, the Interim AD, and five members of our choosing from the Save Tribe Swimming community.”

Jeff Crisci, W&M alumnus who’s wife Kelley Crisci coaches the men’s swim team — their son is on the Tribe swim team — said he has not received a response from the administration about the open letter.

He also signed the Pledge Not to Donate, adding he feels Huge’s resignation is “a positive step” to rebuilding the community’s trust.

“We certainly think its unfortunate that someone is going to lose their job over this situation but it’s a positive step in terms of collaboration with the college,” Crisci said. “We feel that yesterday’s outcome was a positive…step in rebuilding in the community.”

He added the student athletes are “very much in limbo right now,” torn between wanting to stay at W&M, “a school they love,” and wanting to compete in the sport they love.

The open letter added the Save Tribe Swimming community will continue to “express its outrage publicly” and “discredit the decision to cut the sports programs.

“Our message is strong, our voice is united, and our resolve is unflinching,” the letter noted.

So far at least 170 people have signed the pledge.

Here is the timeline leading up to the resignation of Samantha Huge:

  • Open letter- On Sept. 3, Huge announced in a seven-minute Zoom meeting with the student athletes and coaches from seven varsity sports teams: Men’s and Women’s Gymnastics; Men’s and Women’s Swimming; Men’s Indoor and Outdoor Track & Field; and Women’s Volleyball. An official statement from Rowe, Agouris and Huge “with the full support of the Board of Visitors” was posted to the college’s website, citing financial concerns and the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Discovery of plagiarism- After the announcement, student athletes, parents and alumni from the cut sports programs created petition to try and reinstate the programs. Save Tribe Swimming raised more than $1 million in a couple weeks. The college community discovered parts of the open letter announcing the decision to cut the sports teams was plagiarized from Stanford University’s open letter in July announcing their sports cuts.
  • Huge statement- On Sept. 18, Huge released a statement about the joint open letter from W&M stating the 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.”
  • Rowe statement- On Sept. 23, Rowe released a statement about the open letter, referring to Huge’s statement. “The open letter announcing these decisions did not rise to William & Mary’s standards, as Athletics Director Samantha Huge has shared, and this was a mistake.”
  • BOV meeting listening session- On Sept. 23 the Board of Visitors met with the student athletes, faculty and staff, shared their thoughts about the sports cuts and the plagiarized letter at a “listening session.” The college’s student assembly presented their resolution, which demanded more transparency about the decision to cut the sports programs. Rowe announced in an email she appointed her assistant, Jim Golden to “help guide strategic communications in Athletics” and work with Huge.
  • Title IX lawsuit- The same day as the meeting, Arthur H. Bryant, who represents the three women’s teams that were cut by the college, demanded the sports be reinstated, threatening to file a lawsuit because the college would violate Title IX by not offering equal opportunities to both men and women.
  • “Open dialogue”- At the BOV meeting on Sept. 25, Rowe promised to have an “open dialogue” about the future of the athletics programs.
  • W&M responds to the lawsuit- Carrie Nee, attorney for the college, responded to Bryant’s letter on Sept. 30, Bryant’s deadline, noting W&M did not have to reinstate the seven sports teams and could still comply with Title IX.
  • No confidence- One faculty member planned to bring a motion –––a vote of no confidence–– in Huge on Oct. 6 based on the lack of the faculty’s involvement about the decision to cut the sports programs and Huge’s plagiarism of the open letter.
  • Huge resigns Oct. 6 just before the faculty’s meeting for a vote of no confidence. Rowe and the Board of Visitors announced Huge had resigned and was being replaced by Rowe’s chief of staff, Jeremy Martin, who would act as the interim athletics director. The motion to reinstate the sports programs is still planned for Tuesday, Oct. 13.

W&M response

On Tuesday, WYDaily asked W&M if Huge would receive a severance package.

“We’re not going to discuss any personnel items at this time,” W&M spokeswoman Erin Zagurksy wrote in an email.

WYDaily also reached out to Suzanne Clavet, another spokeswoman for W&M, on Wednesday to see if the administration wanted to comment on the Pledge Not to Donate and the letter sent to Rowe, the BOV and the new interim athletics director from Save Tribe Swimming.

She was not immediately available for comment.

See the full text of the pledge below.

The Pledge Not to Donate has signatures of college alumni. (WYDaily/ Courtesy of David Hildebrand)
The Pledge Not to Donate has signatures of college alumni. (WYDaily/ Courtesy of David Hildebrand)

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