By REBECCA MELSON & MALLORIE HARNISH
In the initial post of this article, Tim Brown’s title was incorrectly stated as the head coach of UMW’s men’s rugby team. His official position is coordinator of team sports.
The City of Fredericksburg Police Department is currently investigating accusations that a University of Mary Washington student poisoned Tim Brown, coordinator of team sports and manager of UMW’s Mother’s Rugby team, while dining at a local restaurant.
According to a search warrant filed with the Fredericksburg Circuit Court, the incident occurred last December, when Brown claimed to have become violently ill after three occasions of dining in specific restaurants within the Fredericksburg area, including Noodles and Company.
A student’s social media message said that the alleged poisoning occurred in response to comments Brown made to team members that could be perceived as sexist.
One message said, “Hoping the director of the rugby team knows I *accidentally* messed up his food when he came into my restaurant,” and was reinforced with another saying:
“It was subtle. He probably didn’t notice. Normally I wouldn’t have been so petty but I have a friend on the team who told me things he’s said about all the issues with feminism at UMW.”
Brown declined to make a comment regarding the matter.
When asked for statements, several men’s rugby team members also declined to comment on the issue. However, anonymous members of the men’s and women’s rugby teams stated that Brown also has a troubled relationship with the women’s rugby team.
In October of 2016, Brown offered to sponsor the women’s rugby team. However, women’s rugby members said they declined the offer.
Members of both women’s and men’s rugby have said that Brown can be abrasive at times, and uses his authority to intimidate people, even those he is coaching.
According to members of both teams, Brown appears to be in fine health. Two sources close to the matter said that his illness was not very serious. One source said that it was unclear whether his slight illness had been caused by the tampering of his food.
Events that led up to some of the tensions with Mothers Rugby, began in 2014 when the team came under fire due to chanting sexist songs that included offensive lyrics.
The rugby teams were recently classified as having varsity status, leaving them under the supervision of the athletic department. They were put on suspension and required to participate in education and training sessions regarding sexual assault and violence. Due to the suspension, the men’s team was not able to go to the Nationals in Washington State because they were not recognized at that time.
The UMW upholding of Title IX is taken very seriously, and the standards of the university leave no room for prejudice of any kind.
Currently, rugby team members say that they are ready to move on from the past. The men’s team has become elevated into a Division 1 category, and has currently accepted players internationally. There has been no evidence of the team’s current involvement in any sexist activities that would continue to fuel a fire, or warrant activities of retaliation that were displayed in the current investigation requested by Brown.
Multiple members from the men’s team responded with an eagerness to move forward with their reputation and goals.
An anonymous UMW alum and former Mother’s Rugby team member stated that “I had contentions with the school for what happened that year regarding the sexist activity, but I would love to see feminists invited to Rugby matches.”
Though Feminist United members declined to comment, some feminists agree that the UMW climate has been changing for the better since the incident, demonstrating that UMW is a campus that is increasingly progressive.
Feminist and junior creative writing major, Leni Williams, believes that the sexist and bias issues experienced within the UMW community have been changing for the better.
“I feel that we have improved in diversity and tolerance since my freshman year on campus,” Williams said.
Concerning the conduct under investigation regarding Brown and his food being tampered with, Williams gave no support to the presumed activity.
“As a feminist, I feel that, even though we are students, we are adults and should be held accountable,” Williams said. “I think we should always strive to avoid harming people. There would certainly be better ways to handle sexist things being said, and there are always better avenues than resorting to physical harm.”