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Communications process regarding the open letter on athletics

President Katherine A. Rowe sent the following message to the campus community on Sept. 23, 2020. - Ed.

Dear W&M students, faculty, and staff,

In recent days, a number of colleagues have asked about written communications and transparency regarding the decision on Athletics sports reductions. I write to share my reply more broadly, because the issue of concern – repeating language from another institution’s announcement – matters to me and our community. At William & Mary, we take very seriously integrity, trust, and respect. The open letter announcing these decisions did not rise to William & Mary’s standards, as Athletics Director Samantha Huge has shared, and this was a mistake.

Despite good intentions – in part because of the effort to seek best models for sharing difficult decisions – the communications process ultimately broke down. Many of the athletic departments that have eliminated sports share freely with one another in an effort to use best practices and approaches, and learn from each iteration. The main purpose of consultation was to ensure the utmost clarity and compassion in communicating very distressing news.

That said, words representing William & Mary should come from William & Mary. As president, I am accountable for the review process that should have ensured this. As the leader of our learning and research community, it is my responsibility to make certain this situation does not occur again. I want to underscore Director Huge’s earlier statement affirming integrity as paramount for the success of the university as a whole and Athletics specifically. I have expressed to Director Huge that her top priority for Athletics going forward needs to be restoring trust.

To support that process, I have asked Gen. Jim Golden, W&M’s long-time former vice president for strategic initiatives and assistant to the president, to help guide strategic communications in Athletics in the near term. His immediate charge will be to partner with Director Huge to review Athletics communications practices, improve them, and ensure we speak to the concerns of the William & Mary Athletics community at this critical time.

My overarching goal for the whole of this very painful Athletics decision is that we move through it in a way that is respectful towards those most closely affected. Though we fell short of this aspiration this time, we remain fully committed to it going forward.


– Katherine

Katherine A. Rowe