Saturday, November 26, 2022

Passive resistance: W&M women’s track demands all teams be reinstated; declines meeting with interim athletics director

The Womens' Track & Field is demanding all the mens' teams be reinstated by the university. (WYDaily/ Courtesy of Tribe Athletics)
The Women’s track & field is demanding all the men’s teams be reinstated by the university. (WYDaily/ Courtesy of Tribe Athletics)

William & Mary’s Women’s Track & Field team wrote a letter Monday to the university administration and the Board of Visitors regarding the decision to cut the seven varsity sports teams.

That’s the second letter the team has addressed to the college in a span of three days.

The first open letter demanded the reinstatement of the remaining sports teams –– all men –– and a long-term solution for the athletics department. This second letter declined a meeting with the department’s interim athletics director and instead called for a meeting with the college’s president, the Board of Visitors’ rector and the provost.

While the women’s track & field, swimming and gymnastics teams have been reinstated, the men’s indoor and outdoor track and field, swimming and gymnastics teams have not.

In the second letter to W&M President Katherine Rowe, the women’s track & field team opted not to meet with her chief of staff and interim Athletics Director Jeremy Martin Thursday.

“Interim AD Jeremy Martin, new to the world of Division I Athletics, has continually put forward the same poor financial analysis, the same inflexible analysis of title IX compliance, and the same biased analysis on competitiveness,” according to the letter.

Instead, they asked to meet with Rowe, W&M Board of Visitors Rector John Littel, Provost Peggy Agouris and two faculty members of the team’s choosing as soon as possible.

The letter cited the allegations of the university’s financial mismanagement under former Athletics Director Samantha Huge and by extension, Rowe and Littel’s “watch.”

“We have learned much about the poor accounting procedures displayed by William & Mary Athletics, procedures designed to obscure the potential theft of restricted monies,” according to the letter. “Moreover, during that time, we have learned that Title IX was in fact the main driver behind the decision to eliminate men’s track & field.”

“Yet, all solutions to solve Title IX in a comprehensive manner posited by Men’s Track, Men’s Swimming, and Men’s Gymnastics have been met with the word “no.”

In addition, the women’s team noted Rowe and Martin expect the men’s teams to “carry the sins of the entire department” and the sports cuts are a reflection of Littel’s “dream” to have a smaller athletics department focusing on “revenue sports.”

“We are tired of hearing the same excuses covering the absence of leadership over the last 53 days,” according to the letter. “We believe our financial problems to be solvable as a department or “One Family” as we are fond of saying.”

“We believe our Title IX issues are temporary with a path forward shared by ALL twenty-three sports.”

Mark Moran, W&M alum and former track captain, said the women’s track and field team’s decision to address the administration is “phenomenally brave.”

“I think it’s tremendously courageous in what the women are doing in standing up for the male athletes,” he said. “This approach has never been done before and I think it’s truly remarkable in terms of the braveness and the character in the response to the administration.”

In a separate letter which was sent to the administration on Oct 24, the women’s track and field team demanded the reinstatement of all the programs with a “faculty-partnered approach to a long-term solution” and, in the meantime, plan to protest their displeasure at the administration through passive resistance.

“As such, you can expect to see us front and center voicing our concerns about these issues; you can expect us to take our argument to our student body, to our faculty, and to our alumni; what you should not expect is for us to show up in uniform, representing this institution, until this matter is resolved,” according to the letter. “A College that does not share these core values is not a College to be valued.”

The women’s track & field team called the university’s decision to cut the sports programs “cloaked in secrecy,” noting the process had violated “the spirit and intent” of W&M’s Honor Code.

Other points the letter noted was the university’s “narrative shift” which at first blamed the COVID-19 pandemic for the sports cuts then Title IX compliance.

“As the number one Title IX offset in the William & Mary Athletic department, we strongly resent and resist the idea that our participation is being taken for granted and that our bodies are being used to bolster other Men’s sports without our consent,” according to the open letter.

In addition, the women’s track &field team noted women’s programs “suffer” without their partner programs and questioned the administration’s understanding of Title IX.

“We believe the Department’s execution of Title IX to be uninformed and uneducated,” according to the letter. “Their approach is a manipulation of the law, not its intended usage.”

“In this matter, we expect our College to always operate at the highest standards of behavior and choice instead of caving to the path of least resistance.”

Posted by Save Tribe Track & Field on Saturday, October 24, 2020

W&M response

WYDaily asked Pete Clawson, spokesman for Tribe Athletics, if Martin wanted to share his thoughts or comment on the letters.

Clawson sent the following statement which was attributed to Martin.

“We respect our student-athletes’ right to express themselves and encourage them to use their voices in a thoughtful manner. I appreciate their support of fellow student-athletes and will look forward to engaging them in the near future.

We will address the potential Title IX implications at a later date.”

In an email Monday, Rowe told the women’s track & field team she respected their commitment to their teammates on the men’s team.

“I want to assure you that we are committed to thinking through carefully all substantive solutions that address the real financial constraints W&M faces as well as our university obligations under Title IX,” she wrote. “I understand that Interim Dir. Martin will meet with you Thursday to discuss candidly the challenges the Athletics Department faces and your concerns.”

“I hope you will keep lines of communication open with him as we continue to seek the path forward,” she added.

Here’s a recap of the W&M sports cut saga:

On Sept. 3, Rowe, Agouris and Huge announced men’s swimming, gymnastics and outdoor and indoor track teams and the women’s swimming, volleyball and gymnastics teams would be cut starting in the 2021-2022 academic year.

The open letter cited the coronavirus pandemic and Title IX compliance as reasons for cutting the seven varsity sports programs.

In the days following the decision, supporters of the Save the Seven movement found out parts of the letter had been plagiarized from Stanford University and in response, some faculty members wanted to file a motion for a vote of no confidence in Huge’s leadership and demand her resignation.

An attorney threatened a Title IX lawsuit on behalf of the three women’s teams against the university and on Oct. 6, Huge resigned. She was replaced by Martin on an interim basis.

Nearly two weeks later, the college reinstated the women’s teams to comply with Title IX.

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Julia Marsigliano
Julia Marsiglianohttp://wydaily.com
Julia Marsigliano is a multimedia reporter for WYDaily. She covers everything on the Peninsula from local government and law enforcement agencies to family-run businesses and weather updates. Before WYDaily, she covered Hampton and Newport News for WYDaily’s sister publication, HNNDaily before both publications merged in December 2018. Julia was born in Tokyo, Japan and moved to Long Island, New York in 2001. A true New Yorker, she loves pizza, bagels and good Chinese food. Send comments, tips and other tidbits to julia@localvoicemedia.com. You can follow her on Twitter at @jmarsigliano

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