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On Friday, August 13th Peter Burchard, President of USA Fencing, called a Board of Directors Emergency Meeting. WFencing applauds President Burchard for setting an emergency meeting to put forth proposals to address SafeSport concerns and on going media attention regarding sexual abuse in fencing. As a result, USA Fencing recently responded by announcing it is expanding SafeSport resources. This initial step from USA Fencing is a move in the right direction to foster eradicating sexual assault and harrassment.

 

USA Fencing’s announcement also begins to demonstrate that their board and officers acknowledge and understand the hostile environment members of our community are navigating and puts women and children at greater risk of abuse.

 

While we are encouraged by recent efforts, WFencing is concerned about the Board’s claims of lack of familiarity with the SafeSport issues that have undermined fencing’s credibility both before the Olympics and during the Olympics. Here, we do not reference the conduct of individuals. We refer to the process of addressing complaints.

 

Specifically:

  1. As raised by members on the call, by the time of the emergency meeting, there had been several complaints made public, including the one involving Mr. Hadzic leading up to the Olympics. During the 21 days between when Hadzic first made the national news and the emergency meeting, what proactive steps could have been taken to get the Board educated and up to speed on SafeSport? What fiduciary responsibility do members of the Board have as officers of USA Fencing? As representatives of the fencing community? Could there have been outreach to the experts at SafeSport? Could that time have been used to get legal opinions on potential policy prescriptions?

  2. The Board has prioritized significant changes to the Bylaws. See link here: Proposed Changes to USA Fencing Bylaws.

One of the major changes is the elimination of the office of “President” whereby the USA Fencing membership will no longer have a role in electing a person directly to that position. Instead, this responsibility will be given to the Board to select a “Chair.” Given that the membership just voted in a president and then a board member who were not slated but obtained write-in voting status. Given the membership has expressed engagement regarding board choices, given that engagement and the voting contemplated for President, should the bylaws be submitted directly to the membership for voting? Given the leadership needed on critical matters such as SafeSport, how does changing the role of President from membership-elected to board-selected truly benefit the membership? Additionally, outside of the July 9th meeting to receive the report from the Governance Task Force on the proposed Bylaw changes, there has not been much transparency provided to the membership. There have been no virtual meetings to educate the membership on the nature of these changes and why they are needed at this time. There has been no proactive effort to encourage feedback and comment from the membership on these sweeping organizational changes. In fact, the link to submit comments is not easily found on the USA Fencing website, and the comments are not then made public to the membership for broad membership consideration but are emailed to an internal email box. For governance matters of such consequence and significance, why is there a lack of transparency and clarity? With this issue, why not allow the new Board, to be seated September 1, 2021, to have a chance to weigh in on the changes? What is the urgency? Members new to the Board, or those re-elected, ran on a platform of transparency --where is evidence of that transparency?

 

Based on the above-referenced concerns, WFencing advocates for the following actions.

  • Support President Burchard’s SafeSport proposals including calling on other National Governing Bodies (NGBs) to join forces with USA Fencing.

  • Call on the USA Fencing Board to table the Bylaws changes until after the new Board takes office on September 1, 2021.

  • Support calls for polling of the USA Fencing membership on the specific change to the office of the President.

  • Have the national office or USA Fencing Board give a full presentation at the August 31 meeting on the Board’s position and action plan regarding SafeSport, including ways that the organization will improve to exceed SafeSport standards.

  • Use the August 31 USA Fencing Board meeting to directly address membership concerns about both the proposed by-laws and about SafeSport.

 

WFencing asks interested fencing community members to submit your support for these action items to bylawsfeedback@usafencing.org and copy USA Fencing Board members at https://www.usafencing.org/board-members . We also invite community members to send feedback to WFencing, join as a member and donate to support our efforts.

 

WFencing

Vickie Miller, President

info@wfencing.org

It is abundantly clear that SafeSport is not equipped to handle cases of sexual violence and harassment in an effective manner. We have heard of, and reported, abuses in treatment of referees, athletes, and other fencing professionals, particularly women and persons of color. Throughout, the situation remains: those who may suffer from a power imbalance have no or little voice to control their circumstances.

 

WFencing asks that USA Fencing make efforts with SafeSport to review the process because we as a community do not feel it is effective.

The decision to allow Mr. Alen Hadzic to participate as an alternate on the US Olympic Team stands as a case in point.  Although we affirm due process for all, including the accused, the decision to allow Mr. Hadzic to participate in the upcoming team event under the cloud of significant suspicion, while other Olympic hopefuls with charges of  non-criminal behavior, were denied the opportunity is, at the very least, confusing.


As awful as the circumstances surrounding the allegations against Mr. Hadzic appear to be (based on public information), what is the most distressing with this current situation is that it is not an anomaly but an example of the type of behavior that has been allowed to thrive in the sport. Sexual violence and harassment is a systemic issue and in order to root it out, specific, intentional treatment is needed.

Although the SafeSport complaint process is new, it appears to have failed our community and needs more work. That work must be taken up by those with the power to make it so.

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WFencing calls for: 

  • Revision of the SafeSport process

  • More funding for SafeSport 

  • Greater leadership support for SafeSport, and better direction in clarifying the SafeSport process for those reporting

  • Strengthening and enforcement of the USA Fencing Code of Conduct

  • Full policy evaluation/review conducted by USA Fencing to make recommendations on sustainable change

Wfencing President Vickie Miller

WFencing encourages our current USA Fencing President and Board Members to stand and take action. We hope the sweeping changes to the Bylaws currently under membership review (WFencing will issue separate comment on the proposed changes) provides an opportunity for the sport to further address this issue in a substantive way that leads to cultural change and equity.

 

WFencing understands that governing decisions are difficult. We also recognize that there are various parties and entities involved in the decision-making process. To that end, WFencing stands ready to assist and support any and all who seek to help eliminate sexual violence, harassment, and inequitable treatment in the sport. We encourage women and men to come forward with reports of abuse no matter at what point in time the abuse happened so they can receive the support they deserve.

 

All of us must work to fully understand the sport culture issues at hand and create an action plan to move forward.

 

WFencing

Vickie Miller, President

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On Friday, August 13th Peter Burchard, President of USA Fencing, called a Board of Directors Emergency Meeting. WFencing applauds President Burchard for setting an emergency meeting to put forth proposals to address SafeSport concerns and on going media attention regarding sexual abuse in fencing. As a result, USA Fencing recently responded by announcing it is expanding SafeSport resources. This initial step from USA Fencing is a move in the right direction to foster eradicating sexual assault and harrassment.

 

USA Fencing’s announcement also begins to demonstrate that their board and officers acknowledge and understand the hostile environment members of our community are navigating and puts women and children at greater risk of abuse.

 

While we are encouraged by recent efforts, WFencing is concerned about the Board’s claims of lack of familiarity with the SafeSport issues that have undermined fencing’s credibility both before the Olympics and during the Olympics. Here, we do not reference the conduct of individuals. We refer to the process of addressing complaints.

 

Specifically:

  1. As raised by members on the call, by the time of the emergency meeting, there had been several complaints made public, including the one involving Mr. Hadzic leading up to the Olympics. During the 21 days between when Hadzic first made the national news and the emergency meeting, what proactive steps could have been taken to get the Board educated and up to speed on SafeSport? What fiduciary responsibility do members of the Board have as officers of USA Fencing? As representatives of the fencing community? Could there have been outreach to the experts at SafeSport? Could that time have been used to get legal opinions on potential policy prescriptions?

  2. The Board has prioritized significant changes to the Bylaws. See link here: Proposed Changes to USA Fencing Bylaws.

One of the major changes is the elimination of the office of “President” whereby the USA Fencing membership will no longer have a role in electing a person directly to that position. Instead, this responsibility will be given to the Board to select a “Chair.” Given that the membership just voted in a president and then a board member who were not slated but obtained write-in voting status. Given the membership has expressed engagement regarding board choices, given that engagement and the voting contemplated for President, should the bylaws be submitted directly to the membership for voting? Given the leadership needed on critical matters such as SafeSport, how does changing the role of President from membership-elected to board-selected truly benefit the membership? Additionally, outside of the July 9th meeting to receive the report from the Governance Task Force on the proposed Bylaw changes, there has not been much transparency provided to the membership. There have been no virtual meetings to educate the membership on the nature of these changes and why they are needed at this time. There has been no proactive effort to encourage feedback and comment from the membership on these sweeping organizational changes. In fact, the link to submit comments is not easily found on the USA Fencing website, and the comments are not then made public to the membership for broad membership consideration but are emailed to an internal email box. For governance matters of such consequence and significance, why is there a lack of transparency and clarity? With this issue, why not allow the new Board, to be seated September 1, 2021, to have a chance to weigh in on the changes? What is the urgency? Members new to the Board, or those re-elected, ran on a platform of transparency --where is evidence of that transparency?

 

Based on the above-referenced concerns, WFencing advocates for the following actions;

  • Support President Burchard’s SafeSport proposals including calling on other National Governing Bodies (NGBs) to join forces with USA Fencing.

  • Call on the USA Fencing Board to table the Bylaws changes until after the new Board takes office on September 1, 2021.

  • Support calls for polling of the USA Fencing membership on the specific change to the office of the President.

  • Have the national office or USA Fencing Board give a full presentation at the August 31 meeting on the Board’s position and action plan regarding SafeSport, including ways that the organization will improve to exceed SafeSport standards.

  • Use the August 31 USA Fencing Board meeting to directly address membership concerns about both the proposed by-laws and about SafeSport.

 

WFencing asks interested fencing community members to submit your support for these action items to bylawsfeedback@usafencing.org and copy USA Fencing Board members at https://www.usafencing.org/board-members . We also invite community members to send feedback to WFencing, join as a member and donate to support our efforts.

 

WFencing

Vickie Miller, President

info@wfencing.org

Dear WFencing Members and Enthusiasts,

 

In 2019 I gave a TEDx TALK called Opening Closed Doors to Women in Sport. Later that summer I conducted a seminar called Barriers to Women Fencing Coaches. These two events were the impetus for the formation of WFencing. It has not been easy to start a new national organization, particularly one whose core mission is to overcome systemic sexism and racism, but that’s what we’ve done and now we are celebrating our one year anniversary!!

 

In one year’s time, WFencing has established a constitution and bylaws and has an acting board of directors. By the end of the summer official elections will be conducted and we will have a formal board of directors. (See the notice about board elections in this newsletter or on the website.)

 

The current and acting board has also launched a website, established a quarterly newsletter, created a consolidated information page for prospective student athletes, scheduled a series of diversity training opportunities for members, connected the entire USA Fencing community with RISE anti-racism training, responded to racism and sexism reported by fencing referees, and launched a series of fencing coaching development opportunities we called Learning Pods. WFencing also created a process for members to vet USA Fencing Board candidates. Whew!

 

Although we are off and running, it is not enough. There is so much more to do and we need everyone in WFencing to consider actively serving the cause. It is an organization that cherishes diversity, new ideas, and different approaches. WFencing is looking to expand its programs, leadership opportunities and we are especially looking for diversity -- all kinds. If you would like to serve on any of the following committees, please send an email to the committee organizer:

 

I have been fighting sexism in fencing my whole life. When I was a young woman (in the '60s, '70s, '80s) in the throes of my fencing career I often felt alone in my quest to gain equal access to the sport I loved. I wasn’t allowed to fence epee or saber, I wasn’t respected for my athleticism or my fencing skill. Later, as a fencing coach I continued to experience "the good ole boy system" and for the longest time felt alone in my fight to gain equal access. With the formation of WFencing I now realize I have never been alone in this quest. There are many other women, people of color, and folk who identify as LGBTQ who want equal access and fair treatment in the fencing world and who also have felt alone in their fight. With the formation of WFencing none of us have to be alone in their quest anymore!

 

Sincerely,

 

Vincent "Vinnie" Bradford

WFencing co-founder Vincent Bradford, Olympian, Professor, Coach and Community Leader.

News from
USAFencing

Tasha Martin USA Fencing Officials Commission Chair

Referee Commission Chair

Tasha Martin

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ABOUT WFENCING

WFencing is a nonprofit organization committed to uphold the mission of the Olympic dream as it extends to the American professional sport fencing community. We work to achieve diversity, unity and equity among all fencing professionals no matter race, gender, or geographic location in the United States.

Who are we?

We are coaches, fencing professionals, parents and athletes who believe increasing diversity among fencing professionals will greater unify Team USA, reduce SafeSport complaints, and increase participation in collegiate and club fencing nationwide. Through creating clear pathways for professional development we will accelerate our competitive sport environment. Tomorrow we will be bigger, better and stronger.

Why now?

WFencing organized as a response to overt disparities of leadership heavily tilted towards one gender.

What’s happening?

WFencing is creating best practices, consultative groups, organizational transparency models, and collaboration platforms through this crisis of Covid-19. We need unifiers to support each other today, so we can produce better fencing tomorrow.

 

 

 Support clubs now with your donation to help WFencing jump into action.

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