Athletes deserve clarity on scholarship information

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JAMIE HOLT / THE FLAT HAT

I heard them, but I didn’t listen. I saw them, but I didn’t realize. I felt the emotion of their words, but I didn’t feel the level of their pain. To see injustice done to another, and to do nothing, is one of this world’s greatest transgressions. It is with great sadness that I regret not speaking out sooner, for it required me to feel the impact upon myself before I did something.

What follows is the vocalization of the silent cry of many, which the few are now struggling to suppress. For the first time in recent memory, the College of William and Mary’s Athletic Department has decided to enact a scholarship freeze on current student athletes. Across a variety of sports, for an indefinite period of time, no coach will be permitted to increase the scholarship amounts earned by recruited athletes or provide scholarships for athletic walk-ons. For many, recruits and walk-ons alike, the decision to commit, compete and train for the College was based on the verbal guarantee by coaches to have the opportunity to earn increased athletic financial aid with increased athletic performance.

Why was this freeze enacted? In the words of the Associate Athletic Director Peel Hawthorne, in an email sent to the donor parents of a student athlete July 25. “This year we were presented with circumstances that required modest reductions across the board. As a result, scholarship increases for returning student-athletes were restricted to written scholarship agreements only,” Hawthorne said.

Of the many different financial reduction options available to the athletic department, it appears that the first unnecessary, unwanted expense to be reduced is providing the means for student athletes to pay for their education.

These pleas for help, among many others, were not heard by the athletic department. However, their voice was heard by others. Sept. 10, an online petition was published, titled “REPEAL of William & Mary Athletic Department Policy of Freezing Athletic Scholarships.” Within hours, the petition had received 133 signatures, 17 shares and 780 views. Also within hours, the College’s Athletic Director Samantha Huge had heard of this online petition. At 5:06 p.m. that same day, the director had requested a meeting with the student athlete who created the petition. Minutes later, the director, a deputy director, an assistant director and a head coach sat down with the student athlete in a large office to discuss the petition.

The silent cry of many was heard, and a single voice was raised in response — the voice of a single student. Apparently, according to the director, this student was now disseminating misinformation.

Many questions remain. Why would an athletic department contradict itself? Why would the associate director and a head coach say one thing, and the director say another? Who are we, the students, to believe? Is there a scholarship freeze or isn’t there? Why was a meeting arranged so suddenly with this student and why were so many of the athletic department leadership present?

Many donate to the College’s athletic department for the purpose of providing scholarships for athletes. Are these donors being informed that students aren’t receiving increases in athletic aid? New recruits are visiting the College every week, are they being told that they will not have the opportunity to earn more athletic financial aid? Are athletic walk-ons being informed that they won’t be able to receive any form of athletic financial support in the future?

I have heard their voice. I have seen their pain. I understand their struggle. I have seen injustice and will not fall for one of the world’s greatest transgressions.

Email Micah Bremer at mdpratt@email.wm.edu.