After their Invitational was cancelled, the track & field team boycotted.

c/o Nikita Rajgopal

On Saturday morning, in protest of what they called unequal treatment from the Athletics Department, all but a handful of members of the Wesleyan Track & Field teams refused to board the bus intended to shuttle them to an away meet at Amherst College.

The boycott was organized by team members in reaction to the Athletic Department’s decision to replace the J. Elmer Swanson Invitational, a home meet that has occurred annually for the past 20 years, with a meet at Amherst. Those who did go chose to do so because only the officially sanctioned event could award them qualifying meet times for future championships.

According to a letter by the team to the Wesleyan community, the relocation was announced on Wednesday, April 1, and was due to inclement weather, which pushed the men’s lacrosse game to the Andersen Track and the men’s and women’s tennis teams’ matches to the Bacon Field House. In the letter, track team members suggested that the conflict could have been resolved by holding the men’s lacrosse game on the Andersen Track after the invitational instead of changing the location of the track team’s competition.

“We believe that this decision represents a culture within the athletic department in which the track team is continually marginalized in favor of other sports teams,” the letter read. “This marginalization is specifically facilitated by teams that bring in substantial donor funding to the athletic department.”

Instead of racing at Amherst on Saturday, April 4, the remaining team members decided to hold an informal meet at the Andersen Track. Nikita Rajgopal ’17, a sophomore on the team, said that the event was a success and commended the team for its activism.

“It went really well,” Rajgopal wrote in an email to The Argus. “Everyone came together as a team and supported one another… Personally, I’ve never been more proud to be a part of WesTrack.”

The team’s letter went on to cite a series of concerns regarding the athletic department’s treatment of the track & field teams, as well as other teams that secure less donation money for the school. This money, the letter contends, has led to preferential treatment for certain teams on campus. Specifically, the letter points to the construction of a new turf field for the men’s lacrosse team as an instance of mistreatment.

“It was our hope that the money donated by those parents would not result in the mistreatment of other teams that consist of more socioeconomically and racially diverse group of people who do not have the financial means to ‘purchase’ the rights to use our track facility,” the letter reads.

In an interview with The Argus, Athletic Director Mike Whalen denied many of the letter’s allegations, but expressed regret at the negative feelings of team members. He pointed out that the decision to move locations made by Track Head Coach Walter Curry, not the athletic department. Curry declined to comment for this article. Whalen also noted that the tennis and lacrosse matches were both official NESCAC events, whereas the track meet was not.

“Much of this was the first time I had ever heard any of their concerns, so this feeling that this was lacrosse taking priority over track & field is simply inaccurate,” Whalen said. “Our intention was to try to have all three teams compete at home—that was our intention.”

Whalen added that Wesleyan hosts more indoor and outdoor home meets than any other school in the NESCAC besides Bates, and pointed to track team’s own facility as an example of the department’s support for the team.

“There was some mention of big donors on the men’s lacrosse team, and I think that’s interesting because the fact that’s not mentioned in that conversation is that the University stepped up and built the new track complex—that didn’t come from outside donations,” he said.

In the letter, the track & field team noted that it does not fault members of the men’s lacrosse team for these issues, but rather blames administrators in the athletic department. The letter did speak directly about the new track facility.

“We appreciate the school renovating the outdoor track and providing a state-of-the-art facility, but it is not very useful if the track team can’t actually access it,” the letter reads. “We only get access to the outdoor track about two days a week during outdoor track season because we can’t practice on the track while lacrosse has practice on the infield. Many of our athletes have suffered from this lack of access.”

Rajgopal noted the importance of this effort in combating unequal treatment and characterized the track team’s attitude in the near future.

“If we’re going to change how the Athletic Department treats us we need to be seen as one of the most hardworking and passionate teams at Wes, and I think we all showed how much we put into and care about the track program,” she said.

On Friday, April 3, some students from the track & field team met with Whalen and other administrators from the Athletic Department. In the letter, team members expressed enduring disquiet with the administration even after that meeting.

“While the athletic department was respectful and listened to us speak, we believe that we need to take a stand against our repeated marginalization,” the letter reads.

Whalen expressed optimism going forward.

“At the end of the day, if this helps us bring some other issues to the surface, then this will have been a valuable exercise,” he said. “I plan to sit down with Coach Curry and talk with him about the concerns voiced by our student athletes and try to figure out if there’s an effective plan that we can try to put in place to figure out if we can help alleviate some of their concerns.”

Correction: A previous version of this article stated that the track team members who attended the Amherst meet did so to qualify for the national championship. This has been corrected to reflect that only an officially-sanctioned meet can award times to participants.

Correction: A previous version of this article stated that the track team members who attended the Amherst meet did so to qualify for the national championship. This has been corrected to reflect that only an officially-sanctioned meet can award times to participants.

 

  • The Snail

    It is absolutely ridiculous that the Men’s Lacrosse Team couldn’t move to one of the other perfectly suitable fields for their game, and instead used the field in the middle of – the only – track available for the Women’s Track Team.

    To make this decision even more ludicrous, the Women’s Track and Field team is more relevant in Wesleyan athletics… The Men’s Lax team has been a joke since their berth to nationals some 7 or 8 years ago. They are the black sheep of a burgeoning Wesleyan athletics department. The Women’s Track and Field Team on the other hand has literally never been better. They set multiple school records both this year and last, came within 1 point of capturing the Little Three Championship this indoor season (a hugely historic accomplishment for Wesleyan Track) and sent two runners to the National Championship. In the past two years, Wesleyan’s women have established themselves as one of the dominant force to be reckoned with in the NESCAC.

    Clearly, if the Athletic Department was actually interested in encouraging competition and rewarding success, they wouldn’t have placed the Women’s Track Team so much lower on their priorities list then the Men’s Lax team. Consequently, the only logic to be seen behind the AD’s decision this week must have been motivated by Greed, Sexism, or a viscous combination of both.

    I hope that this issue is addressed by the University in a timely and just manner.

    • The Snail

      vicious*….

      • Shutup

        Division III Lacrosse / NCAA lacrosse is a joke. It’s a sport typically dominated by white Mid-Atlantic / New England teams. Most players come from wealthy suburban areas, as lacrosse is an extremely expensive sport. WOW Wesleyan is a top ranked NESCAC / NATIONAL lacrosse team!!!! It doesn’t mean anything…

    • you are dumb

      You are absurd to call the men’s lacrosse team a black sheep.
      Please review the past years finishes in the NESCAC and National Polls to talk further. Thanks.

  • WesTrack Member

    Nathaniel, thank you so much for covering this story. I just wanted to point out a factual inaccuracy in the first paragraph. You write, “Those who did go chose to do so only with hopes of qualifying for the national championship.” This is untrue. Those who did go went so that they could race in an officially sanctioned race and so that they could get an official meet time (the home meet was not officially timed but hand timed instead). Those racing at Amherst this weekend did not intend to qualify for a national championship at that meet.

    • Blind Boy’s Friend

      Not with that attitude. #gottarunfasttorunfast

    • WesTrack Member 2

      I would say they went to qualify for future championship meets, not just to get an official time.

      • WesTrack Member 3

        I would say that only one of those who chose to race for an official time today was racing his specialty event and therefore doesn’t need to qualify for future championship meets.

  • guest

    the girls track team is actually underrated and legit

  • True Varsity Athletes

    The track team is a joke, and their actions proved so this weekend. So hard to take the majority of them as serious and as athletes. I know some of them and they are truly athletes, but some of them treat it like a rec sport.

    The main issue is that the track team wants everything to be perfect for them all the time and they think they own the field house ask well as the track. It is a shared facility and many teams use these areas. They are willing to make no sacrifice when it comes to working with other teams. They have been so many times that we had to move out of the field house for the weekend because of an indoor track meet, or couldn’t practice because they were setting up for a track during my time. If track don’t like the way things are going they will just cancel practice, or even boycott a track meet for that matter. What type of team does that? Not any type of reputable team with good leaderships, so I go back to my first point of they are a joke. Williams would never do such a think. With these types of things happening you can see why there has been such a struggle with this program for many years. If it wasn’t for the football players on the team it would be rare that the track team would score very many points.

    When other teams start their season Feb 15th – (Tennis , Baseball, Lacrosse ,Softball) the track team for some reason always has the 4:30-6:30pm time slot inside, and every other varsity sport has to practice after there done. I am surprised I have not heard crying from other sports about that situation. In most cases the teams that practice after track practice until midnight. I don’t believe the track team has ever practiced beyond 6:30 in my four years here at Wesleyan. This is why it is hard to take them seriously. Everyone has academic workloads, and many of us have jobs. The track team and coaches could care less about anyone else or even the other coaches. This is a point that needs to be brought up, and is the real injustice with this whole thing.

    Next winter I am proposing to our underclassmen that they meet with Mike Whalen about the track team getting in the same rotation with all the other teams starting February 15. It would only be fair and equitable for the rest of the athletic department for this to happen. Once that happens I will have more understanding for what they go through. Right now the way all other athletes view track is that they are prima donnas. The reason they feel that way is because of actions like they just pulled off this weekend . Track only wants to be outside when it’s sunny and 50 degrees. Maybe if they would feel some of the sacrifices that many other programs go through to accommodate them they would have a better understanding and have a willingness to be flexible.

    • WesTrack Member

      I think there are some pretty valid points here about use of the indoor track. Just to clarify though, many members of WesTrack are willing to practice early in the morning or late at night. Also, WesTrack is a two season sport with the distance group being three season athletes. It’s important to remember that as you’re warming up for your spring sport in February, we’re running in championship indoor track meets. This might be why we get preference at these times but again, like I said earlier, I think WesTrack members would be willing to practice early or late if it came to that. Your claim that “Track only wants to be outside when it’s sunny and 50 degrees” is really unfounded though. Westrack competes and practices in some really poor weather pretty often. I’m a member of the distance group and I’ve taken one day off from mid-November to today. Basically all of that running was done outdoors. I ran outside through every snowstorm this winter when I guarantee your team was in the indoor track/weight room/had a day off. Even though my experience as a Westrack athlete doesn’t speak for the entire team, you should be careful about making blanket statements about an entire team. A number of us are three season athletes who run most of our mileage over the summer so we’re essentially four season athletes. As a member of Wesleyan, I support whatever team you’re on completely but you should also consider the fact that there as Westrack athletes that outwork many if not all the members of whatever team your on. A lot of us don’t have an offseason period. We’re not trying to demonize the men’s lacrosse team or it’s athletes but we’re a TRACK team that needs to be on a TRACK to practice. Other spring sports have either their own field/their own courts/ or a number of fields to choose from. We need the indoor track every day in the winter and the outdoor track every day in the spring to race to our potential just like other sports need their own facilities. We’re not opposed to sharing the indoor/outdoor track space but when it’s distributed unequally it hurts our ability to compete at the highest level possible.

      • Time to get real Track!

        If you are so willing to go late or practice early mornings how come it has never happened. It seems like you guys would rather take off then have a practice at an odd time. I hope you can realize that many of our other teams would like to come in early. If your saying your team is willing to come early or stay late it should happen. This could be a great compromise if the track team is willing to be in the normal rotation with all the other spring teams next winter.

        Your results for all your so called hard work haven’t really showed. You have one or two very good athletes, but for the most part we are well below ever average a whole in track. With out LD or a couple of others you would be a club team. Showing up and going through practice doesn’t mean you are working hard. It is a lot more then that. If you are working as hard as you say the results would show. Your on a team that is not competitive as a group and is has shown throughout the years. Most times you are on the bottom half of a meet. Baseball is the most flexible team in regards their willingness to work with other schedules, and they are one of the top teams we have because when they do practice they know who to work. You all need to get a grip and learn it not all about you!

      • ‘Cac

        I don’t go to Wes, but I can speak for the way scheduling is done at another NESCAC school. When the spring season starts, then school still considers track to be in the winter season as we are still running indoor meets and championship events. Because we are reaching the peak of our indoor season and the other spring teams are just starting, the track team is given priority in terms of practice time and scheduling of the field house. It’s not something that we ask or fight for, the athletic department sets it that way, and in talking to those on other teams who have to practice at non-traditional times, they understand the schedule, and don’t really seem to mind (plus the lacrosse teams hate to be inside anyway, and will move out as soon as the fields get plowed off and it isn’t in the negative numbers temperature wise, therefore reducing the demands on the field house.) I can honestly tell you the track team would like to get outside as soon as possible too, but even though the track can be plowed off (which isn’t super ideal for the surface) you can’t really plow the throwing or jumping areas, and you can’t really plow the grass and fields that lead to the track. When basketball and volleyball overlap at the start of the winter season the scheduling is done similarly to give volleyball priority over the gym, and the basketball teams take the non-traditional times, although the overlap there seems to be much smaller than it tends to be in the spring. I’m not trying to add to either argument, as I don’t attend Wes, I’m just trying to give some potential insight into the way that things are scheduled in other places in the conference.

      • WesTrack Member

        As I said above, it’s probably never happened because in February we’re in championship season and you’re not so the athletic department at least gives us preference during these times. Like I also mentioned before, we don’t take off at all. We’re two/three season athletes unlike almost all other athletes on this campus. Our distance group runs 15 miles every Sunday morning at 8:30am from September to May while you guys are sleeping off your hangovers. We don’t have off days when we’re in season and we’re in season Fall (for some), Winter, and Spring. Many of us also do the heaviest amount of work mileage-wise over the summer. WesTrack doesn’t ask do to strides in your outfield in May because it wouldn’t make any sense and we know the baseball team needs the space most that time of year. The same goes for the track team in February and late April/May. It’s not our fault that you can’t go out and play in the February cold because you play a sport where everyone pretty much stands around like 90% of the time. From what I can tell, over the past 4 years the baseball team has had 2 very mediocre seasons, one really good season, and one great season when you qualified for NCAAs. Like I said above, as a Wesleyan athlete I’m happy for your team and their success and I hope you guys win in all this year. That being said, you clearly haven’t been paying any attention to our program while you’ve been here. Over the past 4 years, WesXC has had 4 national qualifying performances, 2 of which resulted in All-American honors and WesTrack has had 10 national qualifying performances, 3 of which resulted in All-American honors. Over the past 4 years, the baseball team has had no first team, second team, third team, or honorable mention All-Amerians. In the past 20 years the baseball team has qualified for NCAAs twice. The WesXC men’s team has made it twice in the last 10 and the women’s team has made it twice in the last 10 as well. You guys had a great season last year but you shouldn’t act like your program is unbelievable and ours is nothing just because of one spring. In terms of results this year, the WesTrack women placed 3rd at New England Division III Championships this winter (I guess those ideal February practice times counted for something after all). I agree that at times both WesTrack and WesXC has really struggled but so has the baseball program and you really don’t seem to have any idea how WesTrack and WesXC work. There are a number of meets where the large portion of our team is dealing with injuries or resting and, as a result, the team doesn’t score up to our potential. Those in the program understand that these meets aren’t prioritized and know which meets are the important ones. I’d also just add that both the XC and track programs have very young teams right now and the athletic department does not grant our programs the ability to recruit at the level that baseball/football/hockey/lacrosse is allowed to.

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