Response to the Excellence in Brown Athletics Initiative

Brown recently announced that it is planning to transition eleven teams from varsity to club status. As leaders of Brown Running Club, which would be directly impacted by this decision to merge our club with the men’s varsity cross country and track teams, we are opposed to this change and encourage our members to sign this petition for the reinstatement of the varsity teams. That being said, we will gladly welcome any former varsity athletes to our team and are prepared to tackle the challenges we describe together.

We are sending this statement to those involved in the decision making process:

While we are excited by the prospect of having many new athletes join our club, we are concerned by how the decision to merge Brown Running Club with the men’s varsity cross country and track teams could negatively impact both us and the varsity athletes whose careers were abruptly ended. We love our club’s community and are proud of the competitive opportunities we offer, but being told to transfer schools or join our team is not fair to the varsity men’s cross country and track teams.

Although we hold daily practices and compete against other club teams, mostly nearby schools, we cannot provide the same competitive opportunities as a varsity team, nor is that our purpose. We train hard and do well against other northeast running clubs, but we are in no way a substitute for a varsity team. We do not have a coach, and are in fact not allowed by the league we compete in to have one. We do not have access to athletic trainers. We have almost no sprinters or athletes who compete in field events, and neither do our competitors. We, like our peer clubs, are primarily made up of distance runners, and while that can change for us, the lack of competition in these events will not. A merger of our teams wouldn’t be fair to the former varsity athletes or, due to our sudden influx of talent, the schools we compete against.

Even if we were a perfect replacement for the varsity team, we still have major concerns about how this decision will impact us. We already struggle to recruit as many women as men to our team, retain recreational runners, and offer equal opportunities for those who are at earlier stages in their training. We have been trying to address these issues, and fear that the potential influx of many competitive men to our team will set us back significantly on these fronts.

In addition, we already have more dedicated male runners than can compete at some meets where we are limited to just seven runners per gender team. If these spots are taken by former varsity athletes, the merger would limit the opportunities of our club as a whole, making it more inaccessible to the larger running community we seek to serve. While we will welcome any former varsity runners to our club who wish to join and would be happy to have them in our community, we agree with the varsity team that it would be better for us to continue as separate programs.

Finally, we are concerned about the impact this change will have on the club sports program as a whole. In December, Brown’s club sports director left and a replacement has still not been hired. This makes the timing of the decision exceptionally poor. Since December, we have experienced a lack of support—crucially, surrounding getting invoices paid and club members reimbursed for expenses, which are essential for our club to function. This is due not to a failure by those that have taken over the responsibilities, but to the fact that there is no one dedicated solely to working with club sports. Given that we still do not have a replacement club sports director, we are very concerned with how the creation of new teams will be handled and how we as a club are expected to manage the possible expansion.

When the current clubs meet to discuss whether proposals for new teams should be allowed, we are told to vote with the understanding that adding more teams means further dividing the budget. This announcement does not address whether the club sports budget as a whole will increase and, if so, by how much. If there is not a dramatic increase, we do not know how we and other existing clubs can maintain our opportunities, given the number of new clubs created.

The announced changes will drastically alter the sports experiences and opportunities for both club and varsity athletes and will present serious logistical and financial challenges. We are disappointed in the administration and its timing in announcing these changes. They will fundamentally and negatively change the nature of club sports at Brown.

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