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News, Sports

Student-athletes share reactions to reinstatement of women’s equestrian and fencing teams

Reinstated teams reflect on tumultuous period for Brown Athletics

By
Staff Writer
Sunday, September 20, 2020

The women’s fencing squad was reinstated to varsity status last Thursday, but the men’s team remains a club team.

The recent announcement that the University would reinstate the women’s equestrian and fencing teams to varsity status served as a relief from a disappointing year for the student-athletes on these squads. Both teams were transitioned to club status in May as part of the Excellence in Brown Athletics Initiative, which saw nine other teams also demoted. 

Brown announced the reinstatement of the women’s equestrian and fencing teams Sept. 17 as part of a settlement between the University and a group of plaintiffs who believed Brown was in violation of the 1998 Cohen vs. Brown equal opportunity agreement. 

Equestrian Co-captain Lauren Reischer ’21 said she “could not be happier” about the outcome of the lawsuit. “To say equestrian is my life is an understatement.” 

For Reischer, athletics is more than an opportunity to compete. Born with cerebral palsy, Reischer found her love for equestrian through therapeutic riding. Back home in New York, she and her father run GallopNYC, an organization that provides therapeutic horsemanship to athletes with disabilities. Reischer is the first and only graduate of GallopNYC to compete at the NCAA level in the 15-year lifespan of the organization. 

“It means the world to me that Brown provided the opportunity for me to ride at an NCAA level. Very few people with disabilities get to call themselves athletes and even fewer get to call themselves Division I athletes,” Reischer said. 

The reinstatement also makes Reischer optimistic for the opportunities available for the next generation of disabled athletes. “I hope that I’m not the last disabled athlete and Brown continues its commitment to make NCAA athletics inclusive,” she said.

Courtesy of Brown Athletics

The women’s equestrian team was reinstated as a varsity team as part of a settlement between the University and a group of plaintiffs who believed Brown was in violation of the 1998 Cohen vs. Brown equal opportunity agreement.

Women’s fencing captain Anna Susini ’22 also expressed her excitement for the reinstatement. “We have been fighting all summer to make this happen,” she said. “To see the look on my teammates’ faces was priceless.” 

Although women’s fencing was reinstated to varsity status, men’s fencing will remain a club team. 

Men’s fencing captain Nathan Sinai ’21 said that he was thrilled for the women’s team but remains disappointed with the University. “It is a slap in the face to us athletes who gave up scholarship opportunities at other universities to come to Brown and be told we are not who they define as excellent. … It feels like a personal attack,” he said.

For the women’s fencing team, the future will not be the same without the men’s squad. The teams shared the same coaches and developed close relationships through joint practices and competitions. The recent announcement was “not the complete victory we were hoping for,” Susini said. “We have a male counterpart that deserves to be reinstated as well.” 

As the future of college athletics remains uncertain due to COVID-19, student-athletes remain committed to their sport and to one another. “There is still work to be done,” Susini said. “Brown needs to be held accountable for gender equity and making sure this does not happen again.”

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