The College of William & Mary’s Faculty Assembly on Tuesday voted to table a series of motions, one of which would have called for the reinstatement of several sports teams.
But here’s the deal: the first motion calling for W&M President Katherine Rowe and the Board of Visitors to create an athletics task force was withdrawn by Michelle Lelievre, associate professor of American Studies & Anthropology, and replaced with a new motion: For the assembly to create the athletics task force themselves.
“They’ve actually gone in a different direction,” said Suzanne Hagedorn, English professor and director of English undergraduate studies in the Arts & Sciences department. “Essentially it creates a faculty run task force that is due to deliver in March.”
Hagedorn had co-authored the motions with her colleagues, Katherine Guthrie from the Business school and Tom McSweeney from the Law school as well input from other faculty members.
The three motions which were introduced last week by Lelievre, and Anne Rasmussen, professor of Music/Ethnomusicology, called for the reinstatement of the seven sports teams, an external audit of the athletics department compliance with Title IX and NCAA regulations and a new athletics task force made up of students, faculty and alumni to create a new strategic plan for the future of the department.
Alan Meese, W&M law professor and college alumnus, created the new motion regarding the task force, which was approved unanimously by the Faculty Assembly.
See the screenshots below of the new motion below:
Interim Athletics Jeremy Martin was also in attendance.
“The Faculty Assembly hereby creates the Faculty Task Force on William and Mary Athletics, a special committee of the Assembly,” according to the new motion. “The membership of the Task Force shall include faculty, students (including student-athletes, alumni, members of the Administration (including the Board of Visitors) and members of the Williamsburg-James City County community.”
“The Task Force shall in its discretion request information related to its charge from the Administation and seek the widest possible input from the William and Mary community by whatever means the Task Force shall deem reasonably necessary.”
The task force will share its written report with its findings and recommendation on or before March 1, 2021.
Faculty Assembly members seem split on the second and third motions, with some members hesitant to make a statement regarding the reinstatement of the cut sports programs.
Other members had questions and wanted to wait until the athletics task force finished their review process and presented their findings.
The second motion which would have been a vote to recommend the administration reinstate the men’s teams, failed.
Hagedorn said it was a close vote — no (9); yes (7), and two abstentions.
“People who voted against it were all just concerned about what it would mean..in an atmosphere of budget cuts,” she added
The third motion, which concerned the external audit, was tabled — Hagedorn described it as “kind of in limbo.”
“I’ll probably actually write to the new task force about the importance of having an ombudsman office,” she said, referring to rumors of a toxic environment in the athletics department and compliance issues. “I think when trust has been so shattered before you move forward you really have to kind of really make sure that all of the nooks and crannies gets swept out and everything that needs to come to light comes to light.”
“And that’s what the point of motion three was house cleaning,” she added.
She said she would have preferred the second motion to pass but was glad the Faculty Assembly decided to create a task force and “they are not just standing by and doing nothing.”
“I’m encouraged that the faculty assembly sees that the athletics department is in a state of well, disarray and that they think that the faculty need to provide some oversight and some investigation into that,” Hagedorn added.
The next Faculty Assembly meeting is Nov. 17 via Zoom.
On Sept. 3, Rowe, Provost Peggy Agouris and former athletics director Samantha Huge, announced the men’s swimming, gymnastics and outdoor and indoor track teams and the women’s swimming, volleyball and gymnastics teams would be cut.
In total: Seven varsity sports teams with the cuts effective in the 2021-2022 academic year.
The administration cited the coronavirus pandemic had expedited the decision and noted the sports cuts would be in compliance with Title IX.
Students, faculty and alumni questioned the decision and discovered the open letter was partially plagiarized from Stanford University. In response, faculty members prepared to file a motion for a vote of no confidence in Huge’s leadership and to ask for her resignation.
Arthur Bryant, attorney for Bailey and Glasser LLP who represented the women’s volleyball, swimming and gymnastics teams threatened to file a lawsuit against the university for not complying with Title IX.
Carrie Nee, an attorney for W&M, responded to Bryant and told him in a letter William & Mary would be compliant with Title IX requirements without the need to reinstate the seven sports teams, adding the college would reduce the number of men’s roster spots instead.
In the Tribe Athletics Strategic Review Plan for 2025, the university outlined a plan filled with recommendations from the PICTOR Group, to focus on sports which would build a “closer community and expanding school spirit” mainly football and basketball.
In addition, the report noted having a total of 23 varsity sports programs was “not sustainable either.
University officials on Monday announced the reinstatement of women’s swimming, gymnastics and volleyball teams after being threatened with a Title IX lawsuit.
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