Brown University made a major course reversal on Tuesday, reinstating its track and field program back to varsity status after marking it as one of 11 programs cut across a "Excellence in Brown Athletics Initiative" on May 28, a move potentially seen as a cost-cutting gesture.
But in a letter to its community on Saturday, Brown President Christina Paxton later revealed that the cutting of the program, a Brown news release stated, was largely to help "Brown remain in compliance with a 1998 settlement agreement stemming from a Title IX lawsuit."
The decision impacted over 50 athletes across cross country and indoor and outdoor track and field, along with multiple coaches. The initiative, on top of that, ultimately cut nearly 30-percent of varsity sports at the university.
However, student-athletes at the Ivy League institution did not back down in the face of adversity, immediately advocating for a reversal in decision with letters to administrators, a website dedicated to saving the program and athletes of the team ultimately working to gain nearly 50,000 signatures through a Change.org petition.
However, an essay by Princeton graduate Russell Dinkins on June 2 on Medium may have been the objective voice this movement needed, as the former mid-distance Ivy League champ reminded Brown leaders how diverse and multi-cultural the track and field team at the university really was. He wrote:
You cannot address racial injustice without addressing socioeconomic and educational injustice.The legacy of slavery is directly responsible for the disproportionally low-income and low educational attainment of Black Americansto this day. Elite institutions such as Brown offer opportunities for upward mobility for low-income individuals, and sports, in particular, provide a distinct pathway to an elite education. However affluent sports are over-represented at elite universities and 65% of Ivy League athletes are white.
By cutting Track and Field, Brown is literally taking away admissions opportunities for Black male athletes while preserving admission opportunities for white athletes in affluent sports. And to add insult to injury, sailing is being elevated to varsity while track will be reduced to a club team with no recruiting slots.Brown should be finding more opportunities for Black Men to go to Brown, not fewer.
A week later, Brown made a U-turn on its position. Brown President Christina Paxson wrote:
"Our students, alumni and parents took the time to share their deeply personal stories of the transformative impact that participation in track, field and cross country has had on their lives," she wrote. "Many noted that, through Brown's history, these sports have been a point of entry to higher education for academically talented students who otherwise would not have had the opportunity, many of them students of color. In addition, we heard from members of the women's track, field and cross country teams who made a compelling case that eliminating the men's program would adversely impact the women's program."
The move boosts Brown's varsity teams back up to 32. No other changes are expected on horizon for the university.
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