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Op-eds, Opinions

Pipatjarasgit ’22: In Defense of the Brown Women’s Golf Team

By
Op-ed Contributor
Sunday, October 4, 2020

On Sept. 27, 2020, an op-ed by Brendan Ryan was published in The Brown Daily Herald criticizing the recently demoted Brown women’s golf team. In it, Ryan claims that the team was transitioned to club status because of its lack of competitiveness and diversity. We write to correct Ryan’s factually inaccurate claims, as well as to defend and protect the legacy of the Brown women’s golf team. 

First, although framed as such, Ryan’s op-ed was not, in fact, a direct response to the op-ed published by Amanda Levy ’23 earlier this month. Levy’s op-ed advocates for all five of the women’s teams that Brown had cut. She never claims that golf is more worthy than other teams; in fact, she never mentions the word “golf” at all. Instead, she points to the bigger issue of Brown failing to ensure gender equity in athletics and advancing its own agenda while framing its efforts as a pursuit of racial justice. As such, it remains a mystery why Ryan chose to use Levy’s article as a means to attack the women’s golf team. 

Second, Ryan’s claim that women’s golf was demoted because it was not competitive is demonstrably false. Although he purports to provide “context,” Ryan bases much of his analysis on the results of a single tournament held in the middle of February in Florida earlier this year, in which our team competed against others that had been able to practice outside all winter. It should surprise no one that the tournament was won by the University of South Florida and not the team traveling from Providence, Rhode Island. Extrapolating so much of our team’s competitiveness based on this one tournament rather than our broader competition history is extremely misleading.

Just two years ago, our team placed third in the Ivy League Championship, with Brittany Park ’21 and Naomi Lee ’21 winning First Team and Second Team honors, respectively. In the same season, Park was the Ivy League Women’s Golf Rookie of the Year. In 2015, Christine Kim ’18 won the Ivy League Championship as an individual. While the team admittedly faced some struggles this winter, Ryan fails to mention that the team has been in the middle of a coaching transition. Our coach abruptly resigned in August 2019, leaving the team coachless for the beginning of the 2019-20 season. The point is this: you cannot assess a team’s competitiveness based on a single tournament, or even a single season.

Even more significantly, we know for a fact that, contrary to Ryan’s claims, Brown’s women’s golf team was not demoted because of a lack of competitiveness. Documents produced by Brown show that the Committee on Excellence in Athletics evaluated each women’s varsity team based on three factors: competitiveness, facilities and potential community impact. The Committee ranked women’s golf higher in competitiveness than the other four teams that were cut and higher than women’s ice hockey, which was not even considered for elimination. Women’s golf was also determined to be just as competitive as track and field, cross country, basketball, field hockey, softball and tennis, none of which were eliminated. By Brown’s own assessment, women’s golf is just as, if not more, competitive than around half of the other women’s varsity teams. Ryan’s claim that the Brown administration demoted women’s golf for not being sufficiently competitive is wrong.

Third, Ryan’s claim that the women’s golf team was cut because it lacks diversity is offensive. The women’s golf team has been an important source of Asian American representation in Brown athletics; for the past four seasons, well more than half of the team’s members have been Asian American, based on our own count. Moreover, Asian Americans are not a monolith ― our team encompasses a broad range of cultural, ethnic and national origins. Ryan’s argument that our team lacks diversity disregards our players’ heritages and diminishes our team members’ experiences.

Finally, Ryan’s claim that our team has been “handcuffed by high academic standards” is shockingly antithetical to the values of an Ivy League institution. In the May 28 email that originally announced the revised varsity sports roster, President Paxson P’19 herself said that the vision for Brown Athletics encompasses “scholar-athletes who embrace excellence in academics and in their sports.” Academic and athletic performance are not mutually exclusive. Documents in the recent Title IX litigation show that for Fall 2020, the women’s golf team had the highest achieved academic index of any varsity team at the University. Our team also had six women selected for the 2019-2020 Women’s Golf Coaches Association All-American Scholar Team, tying for the most in the Ivy League. We are proud of our contributions to the academic, as well as the athletic life of Brown.

Contrary to Ryan’s claims, the Brown women’s golf team is an athletically competitive, academically talented and diverse group. We write not to suggest that any other team should have been cut instead, but rather to refute Ryan’s inaccurate and unprovoked assertion that our team is not as worthy of varsity status as other Brown women’s teams. We will not allow our players, our coaches and our legacy to be senselessly discredited in our own school newspaper. As a varsity team, we proudly wore the Brown logo on our uniforms at every practice and every tournament. We ask only that Brown show us the same respect and pride.

Signed,

 Pinya Pipatjarasgit ’22

Winnie McCabe ’21

Naomi Lee ’21

Brittany Park ’21

Roshannah Gaur ’22

Hailey Freedman ’22

Amanda Levy ’23

Caroline Garay ’23

Gabrielle Shieh ’24

Alyssa Cong ’24

Alexis Kim ’25

Pinya Pipatjarasgit can be reached at pinya_pipatjarasgit@brown.edu. Please send responses to this opinion to letters@browndailyherald.com and op-eds to opinions@browndailyherald.com.

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  1. Elizabeth A Lussier says:

    A heartfelt Thank You, for setting the record straight!
    Women’s Golf deserves that the facts be shared in detail.
    Much Appreciated,
    Liz

  2. Brown Athletics Travel Department says:

    Brendan-

    If you want to focus your research on that one tourney in South Florida last Spring, let me offer some additional facts. The women’s team was playing in a tourney in Tampa, but to save some bucks for a whopping six travelers, the athletics department had the team fly into Orlando, where the women landed at 10 pm, got in a van, and drove 2 hours to their roadside hotel. They didn’t have dinner ex a small Starbucks salad five hours before they landed. They got up early the next morning for a practice round starting at 9 am which was 20 minutes from their hotel, playing against teams whose athletic departments actually follow through on infrastructure promises that let their kids have a measly few square feet for an indoor hitting facility. They played against teams with scholarships and uniforms that their teams do not need to purchase themselves from the campus bookstore. The girls may hit the shots or putt the putts but what pathetic support from a department who does not take the blame for maximizing their resources or tapping into alumni sources.

    This is really simple. Brown’s athletic department cannot allocate assets, its Corporation strategically lags their Ivy peers about the connection between athletics and alumni fundraising (just read the Harvard athletic study or look at how Princeton, Yale, Cornell, and every other school ex Dartmouth have responded), and the President is a Labor Economist who does not understand how incompetent the school is at executing athletic basics that Division III schools do better than Brown. Finally, the Brown Corporation is a woefully apathetic group of overextended masters of the universe who have not done the work to make decisions of this magnitude. There are only so many Ted Turners to build boathouses and special interest alumni from mediocre sports teams who got to the corporation begging to be saved in an opaque and unfair process.

    This is a sick game of musical chairs and the Brown community should be embarrassed about who represents our school.

  3. Shame on CPax, Jack Hayes & the Board says:

    Just to put the Women’s Golf team’s academic outperformance in context, here’s a list of the “Academic Index Achieved as of 4/20/20” by Brown’s various varsity teams for 2019/2020. This data was disclosed by Brown as part of the recent Title IX litigation.

    In May, the University cut 7 of the top 11 teams, which pretty clearly demonstrates that President Paxson and the Board care more about performance on the field than performance in the classroom – or that they didn’t ask enough questions to educate themselves on this issue. (Let the criticism about the AI begin. But first, perhaps the University should explain exactly how it’s calculated and why it shouldn’t be used.)

    Golf (Women) 234.75
    Golf (Men) 233
    Fencing (Men) 231
    Gymnastics (Women) 228.67
    Fencing (Women) 226.5
    Swimming/Diving (Men) 225.18
    Squash (Women) 225
    Water Polo (Women) 224
    Squash (Men) 222.25
    Softball (Women) 221.13
    Track & Field (Men) 220.73
    Swimming/Diving (Women) 220.49
    Track & Field (Women) 220.34
    Rugby (Women) 220
    Water Polo (Men) 219.9
    Tennis (Women) 219.67
    Crew (Women) 219.48
    Field Hockey (Women) 215.17
    Volleyball (Women) 215.17
    Baseball (Men) 215
    Crew (Men) 213.9
    Lacrosse (Women) 213.67
    Tennis (Men) 212
    Soccer (Men) 211.69
    Ice Hockey (Men) 208.02
    Basketball (Women) 208
    Soccer (Women) 205.7
    Football (Men) 205.54
    Wrestling (Men) 205.52
    Lacrosse (Men) 205.18
    Basketball (Men) 202.82
    Ice Hockey (Women) 201.11

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