20 Dartmouth Sports Sign Solidarity Letter, Protest Team Cuts

by Annika Johnson 5

October 21st, 2020 College, Ivy League, News

20 current Dartmouth sports teams signed a solidarity letter to Dartmouth President Phil Hanlon and Athletic Director Harry Sheehy in protest of their decision to cut 5 sports programs – men’s and women’s swimming and diving, mens’ lightweight rowing, and men’s and women’s golf – in July.

Three out of the five cut programs have websites which contain further resources to support them:

In an interview with the college newspaper, The Dartmouth, Sheehy said that one of the reasons to cut 5 teams entirely was to ensure Dartmouth would be able to support a “Division I level” student-athlete experience for the remaining teams. 

When asked, “Were there other plans considered before making the decision to cut the teams,” Sheehy replied, “Let’s say we decided, ‘Okay, we’re going to emphasize these 16 teams, and we’re going to deemphasize these 16 teams.’…Now you’ve created a lack of ability to recruit and retain talented coaches, which will then limit recruitment of talented student-athletes. It’s a vicious circle. 

Basically, half your program would then be Division III. And then the student-athlete experience goes right down the tubes.”

This context makes this solidarity statement even more powerful – that 20 of those remaining teams have chosen to support their fallen student-athletes over this decision.

Another source of irony is the fundraising video Dartmouth sports made earlier in the summer which featured 2 of the soon-to-be cut teams: golf and swimming and diving. 

Class of 2021 diver from Dartmouth swim and dive Bella Lichen told SwimSwam the main motivations behind the solidarity letter in an email:

“We wanted to show the administration, specifically President Hanlon and Athletic Director Sheehy that cutting 5 teams was an attack on the whole Dartmouth athletics community. In writing a letter signed by other teams and captains, we can, in a concrete manner, demonstrate that the Dartmouth athletes do not support these cuts and stand with us to fight for our reinstatement,” she said.

The teams who signed the solidarity letter include:

  • Dartmouth Football
  • Dartmouth Men’s Lacrosse
  • Dartmouth Heavyweight Rowing
  • Dartmouth Lightweight Rowing
  • Dartmouth Men’s Squash
  • Dartmouth Men’s Tennis
  • Dartmouth Men’s Nordic Skiing
  • The Players of Dartmouth Women’s Basketball
  • The Captains of Women’s Cross Country
  • Dartmouth Women’s Field Hockey
  • Dartmouth Women’s Ice Hockey
  • Dartmouth Women’s Lacrosse
  • Dartmouth Women’s Rowing
  • Dartmouth Women’s Skiing
  • Dartmouth Women’s Soccer
  • Dartmouth Women’s Softball
  • Dartmouth Women’s Squash
  • Dartmouth Women’s Tennis
  • Dartmouth Club Fencing
  • Dartmouth Club Skating

The solidarity letter took 2 months to coordinate remotely. According to Lichen, Dartmouth swim and dive first drafted the letter and sent it to the captains of the other Big Green sports teams. 

“Many teams were very eager to support us, but we also saw pushback from others, especially from coaches,” Lichen explained. 

“The teams who did not sign either did not have full team support or their coaches held them back. The timing made gaining support particularly challenging as well, as the 5 teams were strategically cut during a time where the administration knew many students and alumni be devoting their efforts toward greater issues such as racial equality.”

The #OneDartmouthTeam solidarity letter raises points of concern including lack of transparency from the Dartmouth Administration and the harm done to Dartmouth sports as a whole:

“We are disappointed that student athletes were not consulted to help solve the fiscal and admissions challenges the school is trying to overcome before you unilaterally committed to eliminating these 5 teams…Transparency in such a dramatic decision is paramount, and without it, our leaders forgo accountability, which is exactly what we are seeing.

Your actions have also done permanent damage to Dartmouth’s ability to recruit in good faith. Why would a student-athlete commit to Dartmouth in any sport if we cannot keep the promise that they will be representing the Big Green for the entirety of their college career?”

The Response of The Dartmouth Administration so Far

One major point of the solidarity letter was Hanlon and Sheehy’s lack of transparency and communication about the decision, both beforehand and afterwards. The letter reads: “We are calling on the College and its athletic department to find the courage to rethink their decision, provide transparency, and find a more equitable solution to their problems with admissions numbers and financial distress.”

When asked about Hanlon and Sheehy’s communication efforts with the cut teams, Lichen explained, “Sheehy and Hanlon have been completely silent.

They have declined all requests for comments to the press, they have stopped replying to emails, and they have canceled our meetings. We can’t even get a response, much less a meeting, with the Head of Diversity for Dartmouth Athletics, Ian Connole, regarding the Asian-American grievance. This tells me that they are scared, and they should be. We’re not giving up.”

The Asian-American grievance Lichen mentioned is referencing the diversity grievance that Dartmouth swim and dive wrote to Dartmouth’s Board of Trustees, stating that the five cut teams represented “nearly 50% of Asian Athletes” at the school.

After Dartmouth’s Board of Trustees did not answer their request for an independent investigation of this grievance, Save Dartmouth Swimming and Diving has now reached out to the U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVoes, requesting her support in their attempt to get answers. 

It is interesting to compare the response of Dartmouth Athletics to other colleges who issued team cuts this year. The college swimming and sports world had its first piece of hopeful news with the recent reinstatement of William and Mary’s women’s swim team, gymnastics, and volleyball. As William and Mary’s swim team continues to fight to reinstate their men’s program, this is not a complete victory but it is a hopeful sign for college teams trying to be reinstated, including Dartmouth’s. 

Another difference in how team cuts have been handled is that William and Mary’s president, Katherine A. Rowe, expressed regret over how the administration initially handled communication to the athletes after they were called out for plagiarism by the cut teams. 

The 5 cut Dartmouth teams have not found this level of communication yet, despite numerous events to garner pledges and raise awareness, the written support from over 20 Olympians (including 10 Olympic gold medalists), a solidarity letter signed by 20 current Dartmouth sports teams, the support of the CSCAA executive director, and waves of emails in an attempt to reach out to Hanlon and Sheehy. 

Full #One Darmouth Team Solidarity Letter

“Dear President Hanlon and Athletic Director Sheehy,

As members of the Dartmouth athletic community, we stand united with the recently cut Swimming and Diving teams, Golf teams, and Lightweight Rowing team. We are disappointed that student athletes were not consulted to help solve the fiscal and admissions challenges the school is trying to overcome before you unilaterally committed to eliminating these 5 teams.

We believe student-athletes are a catalyst for recruiting a wide variety of talented students to attend Dartmouth. We strongly disagree with your view that recruiting more non-athletes will improve the Dartmouth experience. Athletes are talented and capable members of the community, and their contributions are even more valuable through the fostered teamwork and leadership. Athletics, like other extracurricular activities, provide environments that cultivate strong character and shape us into well- rounded members of society. Your decision tears those opportunities away from over a hundred of our peers.

Your actions have also done permanent damage to Dartmouth’s ability to recruit in good faith. Why would a student-athlete commit to Dartmouth in any sport if we cannot keep the promise that they will be representing the Big Green for the entirety of their college career?

We are concerned about the manner in which this decision was made. We believe providing transparency into decision-making processes would have invited students and alumni to help identify better solutions than what was arrived at in secret. Transparency in such a dramatic decision is paramount, and without it, our leaders forgo accountability, which is exactly what we are seeing.

We urge you to open a dialogue and include student voices to find a more creative solution than cutting entire programs and robbing your committed athletes of their well-rounded Dartmouth experience. We are calling on the College and its athletic department to find the courage to rethink their decision, provide transparency, and find a more equitable solution to their problems with admissions numbers and financial distress. Eliminating these five programs was an ill-considered determination in the face of a solvable challenge, and as such, we demand that the athletic department reevaluate their decision and reinstate the Men’s and Women’s Swimming and Diving Teams, the Men’s and Women’s Golf Teams, and the Lightweight Rowing Team.

We are #OneDartmouthTeam.

Sincerely,

Dartmouth Football

Dartmouth Men’s Lacrosse

Dartmouth Heavyweight Rowing

Dartmouth Lightweight Rowing

Dartmouth Men’s Squash

Dartmouth Men’s Tennis

Dartmouth Men’s Nordic Skiing

The Players of Dartmouth Women’s Basketball

The Captains of Women’s Cross Country

Dartmouth Women’s Field Hockey

Dartmouth Women’s Ice Hockey

Dartmouth Women’s Lacrosse

Dartmouth Women’s Rowing

Dartmouth Women’s Skiing

Dartmouth Women’s Soccer

Dartmouth Women’s Softball

Dartmouth Women’s Squash

Dartmouth Women’s Tennis

Dartmouth Club Fencing

Dartmouth Club Skating”

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swimfan210_
1 month ago

Glad to see all the support, still disappointed the teams were cut. Hopefully Hanlon and Sheehy will listen to the student-athletes.

SWIMGUY12345
1 month ago

Pretty disappointed to see men’s basketball pass on supporting.

I wonder if there was some inter-sport drama.

swimmer
Reply to  SWIMGUY12345
1 month ago

No drama, as stated in the articles, some coaches instructed their teams not to sign the letter due to the reactions from the athletic department.

Scott Armstrong
1 month ago

Here is a little history on Harry Sheehy…. he was head coach of Williams Basketball (D3 athletics powerhouse) for 17 years making 12 consecutive post season appearances Then was Williams athletics director before moving to Dartmouth… I wonder how the alums from those teams feel about their coach throwing their “D3 experience” under the bus. And I would love to hear his defense of himself.

https://ephsports.williams.edu/information/directory/staff/Harry_Sheehy?view=bio

Last edited 1 month ago by Scott Armstrong