Some members of the Tribe community have some words for those supporting the university president’s leadership amid the controversy surrounding the cut varsity sports programs.
William & Mary Board of Visitors Rector John Littel wrote in an email the board has the “utmost confidence” in W&M President Katherine Rowe in response to a question on how confident the board was in her leadership.
“The Board remains extremely pleased with her performance, particularly how she led the university safely through the first and almost-completed second semester of the pandemic,” he wrote in an email. “We are fortunate to have someone with her leadership skills and character as our president.”
“As it relates specifically to athletics, she and Interim Director Martin continue to meet the commitment made to the Board and community to ascertain, in an inclusive and comprehensive manner, the correct path forward for athletics,” he added.
His statements come less than 24 hours after the Tribe Women’s Track & Field team declined to meet with Martin and asked Rowe to meet with them instead.
But not everyone agrees with Littel’s opinion of Rowe.
“Well I think actions speak louder than words and so far we haven’t seen any actions,” said David Hildebrand, W&M alum and member of the Save Tribe Swimming movement and former Tribe swimmer. “At the end of the day, leaders lead and she’s being silent.”
“So I’m not sure what she’s done that’s given them confidence but she hasn’t given me any confidence,” he added.
Lauren Finikiotis, a W&M senior and long distance runner on the track team, said she feels Rowe has done a “great job across the board” in terms of her response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
While she supports the president, Finikiotis said Rowe has not directly responded to their concerns from the athletics standpoint, adding Rowe’s name was on the open letter announcing the decision to cut the seven varsity sports teams and other documents.
“She needs to take a bit of responsibility for everything that has happened,” she said. “I think from our perspective we’re viewing everything that W&M has taught us and showed us to do, so for us, this should be something that they see and say ‘wow, these young women are doing exactly what the school has taught and the history and the legacy that the school has taught.”
“As W&M students this is what we learn in the classroom and this is what they encourage us to do,” she added.
Finikiotis is disappointed in Rowe’s and Littel’s responses, noting students are expected to be “leaders of society” but are being told their value is not in their athletic ability but rather a need to “balance out” the male athletes in terms of Title IX compliance.
“It’s more than just fighting for the men’s teams to come back,” she said. “As female athletes we’re tired of being used and we want to use our voices to let them know this isn’t okay.”
As a cross country, indoor and outdoor track & field athlete, Finikiotis said she actually counts as three girls which means the entire women’s track team rosters has 120 spots.
She mentioned other points in the previous letter sent to the administration on Saturday how, by eliminating the men’s track & field teams, that ultimately the women’s track & field teams suffer too, making them less competitive.
So far, Finikiotis said Rowe has not responded to women’s track & field team’s letter asking for a meeting.
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