William & Mary women’s track and field athletes said Monday they have refused an “urgent” meeting on Thursday with interim director of athletics Jeremy Martin to discuss their concerns about the elimination of the men’s track and field team at the school.
Instead, they are requesting a meeting with school President Katherine Rowe, Board of Visitors Rector John Littel and Provost Peggy Agouris prior to Thursday. Their request comes two days after 26 W&M track athletes signed an open letter to administration expressing that the men’s indoor and outdoor track teams – slated for elimination at the end of the academic year – be reinstated.
In Saturday’s letter, the female track athletes stated they will not represent the university “in uniform” until the men’s track team is reinstated. As they did on Saturday, the women’s track athletes expressed their feelings in a letter addressed to Rowe and posted on the door of her residence.
“If this is truly urgent, we request this meeting happen as soon as possible, not in four days,” the athletes wrote to the W&M president. “(Also) we request that you bring solutions to the problem, not relying on (cutting) the ostracized programs.
“We have taken a tremendous risk over the past few days and we expect you to do the same.”
Those programs include men’s indoor and outdoor track, men’s gymnastics and men’s swimming – all marked for elimination in a September 3 announcement signed by Rowe, Agouris and athletic director Samantha Huge. Huge resigned under pressure earlier this month and was replaced on an interim basis by Martin, Rowe’s chief of staff.
Three women’s program’s – volleyball, swimming and gymnastics – were also cut as the university sought primarily to reduce a growing athletic department budget deficit exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis. They were reinstated on October 19 so that the university could avoid a Title IX lawsuit.
Lauren Finikiotis, a senior who runs distance and middle-distance races for the Tribe women, said that the female track athletes are tired of being treated as just a “number” in the school’s quest to comply with Title IX and avoid a non-compliance lawsuit. She says the team’s objective in penning and delivering a second letter in three days to Rowe is to be heard and considered more personally.
“Jeremy Martin told us that it was an ‘urgent’ meeting but they wanted to talk to us on Thursday,” Finikiotis said. “How urgent can it really be if it’s four days?
“We’re tired of everything going on and not being heard. Since the very beginning of this we have not had direct communication with President Rowe on anything. To be able to look her in the eyes and let her know how we feel is really important to us.
“This is a gender equity issue and the way the school treats their female athletes is appalling to say the least. We females, in general, don’t always have a voice (here), so we want to use the voice