On May 28, Brown University blindsided its 145-year-old track and field / cross country program, announcing that— effective immediately— Brown would ‘cease training, competition, and operations” of the varsity men’s program. It was cited as a data-driven move, and part of the “Excellence in Brown Athletics Initiative.” As part of this “Excellence” initiative, 11 sports, including Men’s Track and Field, were cut from the University’s varsity list, and two more— women’s and co-ed sailing— were added.
This is not excellence. The barrier to entry for Track and Field is a pair of shoes; the barrier to entry for sailing is a boat. That is not excellence. Cancelling one of the most racially and socioeconomically diverse teams in your school is not excellence. Cancelling the men's team at your school with the most openly queer athletes is not excellence. Slashing training partners, coaches, budget, and institutional support for your women is not excellence. Treating athletes like commodities is not excellence. Removing a pipeline for Black and brown people and working class people to get an Ivy League education is not excellence.
It’s elitism. We’ve known for years how predominantly white institutions take advantage of Black and brown athletes in big-time sports, and we discovered much more recently how explicitly Ivy League athletic admissions operate as a vehicle for reinforcing classism.
We thought Brown was better than that. Frankly, the Brown we knew was. The reason so many of us are so fired up and ready to fight is because we had amazing experiences on the Track team, where men and women, black and white, queer, straight, rich, poor, and everyone everywhere in between came together to learn about each other, support each other, and strive for excellence both in the classroom and on the oval. On May 30, in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and the ensuing community response, Christina Paxson released a statement asserting that “Structures of power, deep-rooted histories of oppression..., directly and personally affect the lives of millions of people in this nation every minute and every hour,” and calling on our community “to demand equity and justice for all people, inclusive of all identities,” two days after stripping Track of its varsity status overnight to funnel more sailing athletes into the school.
We, the alums of Brown Track and Field, call on President Christina Paxson and Athletic Director Jack Hayes to reinstate Brown Men’s Track and Field, to commit to fair and transparent processes for future major decisions, and, most importantly, to make a renewed and lasting commitment to the equality and justice for all people they’ve so hypocritically asked our community to have. For so many people, Brown Track and Field was not only a place for self-expression, competition, and striving for excellence, but it was also a chance for a step forward in life. Turns out, it was just a false start.
#falsestart for excellence #falsestart for diversity #falsestart for inclusion #falsestart for progress