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Men’s Track & Field, Cross Country athletes, alums react to reinstatement

Following athlete-led campaign for reinstatement, Paxson announced decision to return team to varsity level

By
Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 10, 2020

On Tuesday evening, President Christina Paxson  P’19 released a statement reversing a May 28 decision to eliminate the Men’s Track and Field and Cross Country teams as part of the University’s Excellence in Brown Athletics Initiative, which demoted 11 varsity teams to club status. While many teams and their supporters condemned the decision, the University’s decision to cut the Men’s Track and Field program sparked especially notable outcry. The sport is one of the most racially diverse in the Ivy League, and the team is one of the winningest programs at the University with 12 All-American athletes and the most Olympian alums of any of Brown’s teams in the past decade.

 The reinstatement of the 145-year-old Men’s Track and Field program as well as the Cross Country team had been anticipated by its athletes as early as last Thursday when they received news that President Paxson would be joining a virtual meeting between Director of Athletics Jack Hayes and the current track and field and cross country athletes. This meeting, which was originally scheduled for last Friday, “wasn’t originally about reinstating the team,” according to men’s runner Kevin Boyce ’21, who was present for the announcement. It was moved to Tuesday “so that President Paxson could also be in on the call.”

Minutes after the call, an email was sent to the Brown community announcing the decision. “We had heard inklings at the end of last week that the University was willing to retract bits of their excellence initiative, but we weren’t really sure what it would look like,” said former men’s runner and alum advocate for reinstatement Martin Martinez ’18. 

The current athletes and alums who closely collaborated to restore the team to varsity status agreed that their reinstatement marks a beginning rather than an end. “We’re not done,” Boyce said. “We have a lot of things that we still want to fight for with regards to diversity and inclusion, … making sure that the voices of student-athletes across the department are continuing to be heard when big decisions are made.”

In under 12 days, student-athletes, alums and their outside supporters banded together to collect just under 50,000 signatures on a petition in favor of reinstating Men’s Track and Field, launched a website which included a video series, slide decks of empirical data and athlete testimonials and attracted support of public figures such as author Malcolm Gladwell. “To all the alumni organizing and making sure that our voice was heard, I just cannot thank you enough,” Boyce said. 

Track and field and cross country alums see the reinstatement of the team as a victory that goes beyond the field. “I was a first-generation full Pell grant student. I would have never gotten out of my small town without track. Brown changed the trajectory of my entire life. The same can be said for so many of my teammates,” said former hammer and shot put thrower Brynn Smith ’11. “We were fighting for the continued existence of a pipeline into a university that changes lives.”

Alum organizers rejoiced at the news, but agreed that their work was far from done. “I was overcome with joy and a sense of belonging to a community that worked tirelessly to save what was ‘Ever True’ to us. We all agreed that the movement does not stop here,” said former women’s high jumper Morayo Akande ’16. “We were able to highlight the amazing diversity of our team, including the many people of color and LGBTQ athletes. We hope to keep (up) this activism … for current and future Brunonians.”

Members of both the male and female teams athletes were relieved to learn of the men’s reinstatement. “The men’s and women’s team is so integrated that cutting the men’s team is like cutting the defensive line of a football team,” Akande said. 

“Brown Track and Field is an example of a truly successful coed environment. We train together, we compete together and we share the same coaches,” said men’s high jumper Numan Maloney ’22. “I really can’t stress enough how intertwined we are as a unit.” 

The men’s team acknowledged the critical support of their female counterparts in achieving their reinstatement. “We’ve said it once, we’ll say it until the wheels fall off: The women’s team and the men’s team are one combined team,” Boyce said. “We can’t thank the women’s team enough for standing by us in such a difficult time and helping us reach the finish line together, just like we do in practice every week.”

Other alums were quick to join in the celebration as news of the meeting spread through team group chats and social media. “I couldn’t believe it,” said runner Daniel Meteer ’18. “I was definitely proud of the alumni effort that came together within hours (of the initial decision to cut the team). It was a really happy moment to know that people coming together … can actually accomplish so much so quickly. I’m feeling very proud to be a Brown track alum.”

“When I heard the news, it was a rush of relief,” said alum reinstatement advocate and runner Jordan Mann ’15. “Those of us at the forefront of this have been working from 7:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. most days, … but we’re not done. We talked a lot about things like justice and equality throughout this campaign. We want to make sure that we talk about equality going forward not just in Men’s Track and Field but throughout our entire athletics department,” he said. “We want to make this the beginning of a discussion about diversity and inclusion in sports within the Ivy League and across the nation.”

The alums plan to remain an active part of that discussion. “The track and field networks are going to be a lot more involved going forward,” said former runner Sarah Yoho ’18. “It is clear now that (alum) involvement is important and will have an effect on the team going forward.” 

“It’s just been amazing seeing the excitement on Facebook, the flood of texts from students, those involved in the other essays that we were working on and the different media outlets that we were talking to, reaching out and saying congrats,” Martinez said. “It’s been great.”

“We can’t thank the whole Brown community enough for their support throughout this. We couldn’t have done it without all of those who helped us along the way,” said Boyce. “I think I speak for all of us when I say, thank you.”

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  1. Hope that the track & field “movement” includes raising significant funds to support the program – that’s part of the deal at financially pressed Brown. Believe that wrestling came up with some 2 mill. in conjunction with its resurrection from intended abolishment a number of years ago.

  2. A 4 BILLION dollar endownment and, somehow, Brown is financially “pressed”? The school has acknowledged that this move will NOT result in a reduction in budget. More likely, this is about an administration full of adult administrators who, as kids, weren’t picked for kickball and can now even up the score. I understand that Paxson, who has been a disaster, would get this wrong. And the AD is merely covering his tail. But where is the governance? We’re talking about one of the countries great academic institutions.

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