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Op-eds, Opinions

Perkins ’22, Maloney ’22: A Statement of Sentiment by the Brown Men’s Track and Field Team

By and
Op-Ed Contributors
Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Last week, the Brown Men’s Cross Country and Track and Field teams were completely blindsided and told that, effective immediately, we must “cease training, competition, and related operations at the varsity level” as part of an “Excellence Initiative” — an insulting description for a plan that centered around eliminating 11 varsity sports. We are writing to explain how the Brown Cross Country and Track and Field programs have been affected by this new initiative. We hope to share our thoughts on how callously the implementation of this initiative was handled and the helpless position in which the University has put its dedicated student-athletes and incoming recruited freshmen.

At 12 p.m. on May 28, the Men’s Track team received a vague email titled “IMPORTANT” inviting us to join a webinar with the Athletic Department. At 1 p.m., Director of Athletics Jack Hayes hosted a Zoom webinar lasting roughly five minutes where he apologized for cutting teams as part of a new “excellence” initiative. This webinar had no options for attendees to ask questions or speak. We were told that the University would help us in the transition to club status, which would eliminate virtually every element of a Division I experience that we cherish, including facilities, coaching and high-level competitive opportunities. We were also told the University would assist us in transferring schools if desired. However, that option is off the table for the upcoming 2020-2021 academic year as the transfer deadline has already passed.

Initially, we were stunned and could not fully comprehend what was happening due to the vagueness of Hayes’ comments. Not once did he explain why this was being done, or how this decision had been reached. In the hours that followed, we had a team meeting hosted by Coaching Chair Tim Springfield who told us that the Athletic Department had informed the coaching staff just moments before the athletes. Later in the day, the University released a school-wide email and a website detailing the new initiative, both of which still lacked information detailing the rationale behind this decision (other than saying that Brown wants to improve its sports and that removing track and field and cross country would somehow enable them to do so).

While we still do not fully know why Men’s Cross Country and Track and Field were chosen to be eliminated, it seems clear that Men’s Track is the University’s sacrificial lamb to comply with Title IX. We find this to be a disgrace to both the University’s values and the original purpose of the legislation. The true intent of Title IX was to substantially increase diversity and accessibility in athletics. But the Men’s Track and Field team has one of the highest representations of people of color of any sports team at Brown. Track and Field serves as a vehicle that allows many underprivileged, low income and/or first generation students to attend this Ivy League university and further themselves in ways otherwise impossible. By cutting a racially and socioeconomically diverse sports team with few “pay-to-play” barriers to entry, Brown University is removing a critical component of its community that promotes diversity and inclusivity. Having to process this upsetting news during a time of mourning and protest just adds insult to injury. Despite Brown’s alleged commitment to these progressive ideals, it has now become  very apparent that its true motives and priorities don’t align with such public image campaigns.

Though the University suggests the initiative will strengthen the remaining teams, the decision to take the men’s squad out of the equation in the name of “competitiveness” is completely blind to how the women’s and men’s teams’ successes are interconnected.  The Track and Field team here at Brown has a unique culture: Our men and women train together as a cohesive unit under the same coaches, bringing us together as training partners, competitors and friends. The ostensible cost-saving benefits of cutting our team do not outweigh the enormous loss that the Women’s team, in both their training and their culture, is now suffering, as they detail in their own op-ed. Rather than simply eliminating the “men’s team,” Brown is dealing a severe blow to the collective Track and Field team.

What is perhaps most appalling is that Brown has marketed the removal of a program with a 145-year history of success as being in the pursuit of “athletic excellence.” We find this to be incredibly disingenuous. The Men’s XC/T&F program has produced Olympians and NCAA All-Americans across multiple events and shown numerous instances of team success in recent years (5th place team finish at the 2018 North East Cross Country Regional, and 3rd place team finish at the 2018 Ivy League Heptagonal Indoor Track and Field Championships). Less than a month ago, Brown named 20 outstanding senior athletes who have made significant contributions to their sport and university alike, 20 percent of whom were track and field athletes. Alienating our program to foster the creation of winning and “excellence” elucidates how hollow the promises of this plan truly are.

Despite the impact of this decision, it was made by a few individuals behind closed doors without consulting those affected. The initiative was then executed with no forewarning and with no explanation despite reportedly having been in the works for nearly the past two years, according to Hayes. The fact that such a decision was released during a pandemic further harmed the mental health of student-athletes that were already adversely affected by this worldwide crisis. Additionally, by waiting until after the transfer deadline to announce such a decision, the University has conveniently forced members of Brown Men’s XC/T&F to pay full tuition for the upcoming school year without the opportunity to compete in collegiate XC/T&F — something we never signed up for.

The University’s actions have shown the men of Brown XC/T&F that we are worthless in their eyes. Our futures have been pushed aside to pave roads for some nebulous concept of “athletic excellence,” totally undermining and devaluing our identities and efforts as athletes of this University. In addition, the incoming recruits have been robbed of, at the very least, their first year of collegiate athletics. Many of these talented individuals could have chosen to go to nearly any other school they wanted but chose Brown, being assured they would be supported in their academic and athletic endeavors. The University has embarrassed our coaches who must now confront these athletes and explain this absurd news.

It is unfathomable that the University and President Christina Paxson are able to relegate recruited and hard-working varsity athletes to club status. For nearly our entire lives, much of our day-to-day time and focus has been this sport; our identities as XC/T&F athletes have now been wholly undermined due to quick and apathetic decision-making. Brown’s only reconciliation for our team is the “running club” at Brown, highlighting the decision makers’ lack of consideration and knowledge of the sport. Members of our jumps, sprints and throws squad are completely left out, as their events require unique forms of training and practice. Participation in a running club offers neither coaching nor opportunities for these dedicated athletes to compete in the crafts that they have spent years of their lives perfecting.

The men and women of Brown XC and T&F have been devastated by this initiative and are asking for your help in fighting to overturn this decision. We believe that if this decision stands, it will set a dangerous precedent of universities having little to no obligation to their student-athletes’ careers and well-being. We are building broad support and asking for your help in showing President Paxson, Director Hayes and the Board of Trustees that the community stands with us.

Ever True,

The Men of Brown University Cross Country and Track and Field

Calvin Perkins ’22 and Numan Maloney ’22 are members of the Men’s Track and Field Team. Calvin can be reached at calvin_perkins@brown.edu and Numan can be reached at numan_maloney@brown.edu. The Men’s Cross Country and Track and Field teams request that you send messages of support to savebrownxctf@gmail.com.  Please send responses to this opinion to letters@browndailyherald.com and op-eds to opinions@browndailyherald.com.

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  1. ‘By cutting a racially and socioeconomically diverse sports team with few “pay-to-play” barriers to entry, Brown University is removing a critical component of its community that promotes diversity and inclusivity.’

    Well said. They could also add that track is one of the most popular men’s sports with 600000 participants in high school. Men’s track is not exotic or exclusive; rather it is popular, democratic and diverse.

  2. Track and field requires the lowest financial investment for high school athletes out of any sport, and as such, is as close as athletics can get to being equal opportunity. A shame that money will be such a big factor in the recruiting of future athletes to Brown. As an alum, this decision is really embarrassing.

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