Brown University reversed its decision to eliminate the men's track, field and cross-country teams due to the potential loss of diversity at the university and athletic opportunities for black students, President Christina Paxson announced in a letter to students and staff members on June 9. She also cited the public debate taking place in the U.S. about racial injustice in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd.
The three teams were cut as part of an initiative announced May 28 that intended to channel resources into winning athletic teams, among other factors. But the plan was almost immediately criticized by current athletes and alumni for disregarding the students of color that track, field and cross-country bring to the university. The plan also upgraded two sailing teams, a majority-white sport, to varsity status. Paxson apologized earlier this week about the timing of the initiative in a separate letter to the campus.
“I never could have imagined the release of the initiative would come on the heels of one of the most heart-wrenching moments in our nation’s history -- the death of George Floyd and the illumination of the longstanding problem in this country of anti-black racism -- and I am truly sorry for the impact the collision of these circumstances have had on so many in our community,” Paxson said.
Brown administrators heard from students, alumni and parents about how track, field and cross-country had been a “point of entry” to Brown for students of color, Paxson said in her announcement reversing the decision. Current athletes has also started a petition for the university to reinstate the three teams.
Kevin Boyce, a rising senior on the track team, who is black, said the team is “thrilled” the university reversed course.
“Those efforts were definitely needed to fully display the effect that track and field had on our community,” Boyce said in a statement. “I’m thankful that the university chose to listen.”
The reason men’s track, field and cross-country were eliminated was to level the number of men and women athletes at Brown and maintain the university’s compliance with a 1998 settlement made as a result of a lawsuit under Title IX, the law prohibiting sex discrimination at federally funded institutions. At the time, the university agreed to maintain a 3.5 percent variance between the percentage of female students on campus and percentage of female varsity athletic opportunities, which “created tight constraints” and “has been an impediment to Brown achieving broad athletic excellence,” Paxson said.
“The reinstatement of men’s track, field and cross country will have implications for the squad sizes of Brown’s varsity teams,” Paxson said. “However, we have determined that with some modifications, Brown will be able to remain in compliance with the requirements of the legal settlement and with Title IX for the time being.”