The statement issued by the athletic department on Friday, September 18 (“Statement regarding communications about the future of Division I athletics at William & Mary”), represents a new low in their incompetent handling of the elimination of seven varsity sports. While challenging times amplify the significance of bold leadership, they also highlight the failures of Potemkin leadership.
Athletics at William & Mary is a part of the broader university community. As such, to serve the university community it must be aligned with and adhere to the principles and standards of the university. Supreme among these principles is intellectual honesty. The athletic department’s initial statement detailing the elimination of seven varsity sports, a cut-and-paste theft from a Stanford University release earlier this summer, contains plagiarism, and is a betrayal of William & Mary’s standards. Unsurprisingly Friday’s statement responding to criticism of the initial release is a lazy apology of sorts that fails to address the depth of the intellectual and ethical breach. The statement never explicitly acknowledges that passages are plagiarized. Instead, it offers excuses for its shortcomings and, in an Orwellian twist, attempts to reframe plagiarism as emulation. It is a perfect example of claiming to take responsibility while actually failing to take any responsibility at all. It also exemplifies a stunning abdication of leadership.
I am a former athletic department employee temporarily reassigned to the Dean of Students Office. As a coach of Men’s and Women’s Track & Field/Cross Country I am also one of “those most directly affected.” I do not accept that a statement rife with plagiarism can be interpreted as respectful. As an affected party, I can be accused of having an axe to grind. In reality, I someday wish to return to an athletic department where I, and all of my colleagues, can flourish in an environment notable for its integrity.