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W&M Women's Track Boycotts Until Men Reinstated, Too

Paul Steinbach

Twenty-six members of the William & Mary women’s track and field team wrote a letter addressed to the school’s administration and board of visitors that indicates they won’t represent W&M in competition until the men’s track and field program is reinstated.

As reported by the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the women’s track and field team members characterized their action as “a campaign of passive resistance … what you should not expect is for us to show up in uniform, representing this institution, until this matter is resolved.”

The women’s team members will continue to train through the fall semester, according to Juan Conde, a W&M track alum and vice president of an organization called BackTrack Inc. intent on seeing the sport reinstated at the college. They are not scheduled to compete against outside competition until the spring semester.

“They’re fulfilling their activities associated with the scholarships they have received,” Conde said Saturday. “But they’re not going to compete.”

W&M announced Sept. 3 that seven of its 23 sports — men’s and women’s gymnastics, men’s and women’s swimming, men’s indoor and outdoor track and field, and women’s volleyball — would be discontinued following this academic year to address structural budget deficits exacerbated by the pandemic

The reinstatement of men’s track and field is important to the women’s team because training with members of the men’s team allows the women to improve and compete for championships, according to Conde.
 
“The college is ruining their capabilities to compete,” he said.
 

The school’s women’s swim team wrote a letter to interim athletics director Jeremy Martin on Oct. 21, calling for the reinstatement of the men’s swim team for similar reasons. “Our teams make each other better, and we will not give up on half of our family,” women’s team members wrote in the letter. They also wrote that discontinuation of the men’s team would negatively impact recruitment of women’s swimmers because prospects prefer schools with men’s and women’s teams.

Meanwhile, BackTrack has called for faculty oversight of an external audit to ensure that distributions of endowment income have been consistent with donors’ written terms. In a letter to administrators last week, the group questions financial data cited when cutting the seven W&M sports in the first place.

“BackTrack is concerned that various internal studies and external consulting reports leading to the recommendation to terminate the seven sports, including men’s track and field, [were] based on incorrect and/or misleading data,” the letter states, as reported by wydaily.com. “We do not accept the argument that provision of misleading data and reporting would have had no change in outcome to the termination of the seven sports.”
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