College Releases Official Plan for Gender Equity in Athletics

Dickinson released a formal plan to achieve gender equity in its varsity athletics programs last week, in observance of an agreement reached last fall after the women’s squash team threatened a Title IX lawsuit against Dickinson when the school decided to discontinue the men’s and women’s varsity squash programs. 

The original email from George Stroud, Vice President & Dean of Student Life, explains that the reason Dickinson chose to discontinue the women’s squash team was because “The squash program is one of the most expensive to run on campus, and serves fewer athletes than many of our other teams with smaller budgets.” In September of 2021, The Dickinsonian reported that several weeks after being limited to club status, the Women’s squash team began pursing legal action in order to get their team reinstated, specifically through the use of Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972, which prohibits sex-based discrimination on college campuses. 

Associate Professor of Classics Scott Farrington, a former faculty chair of the Committee on Enrollment and Student Life, told The Dickinsonian “ESLC was not consulted before the decision was made and was at no point a part of the decision making process.” The committee, of which five students are members and whose job it is to “review and make recommendations to the Faculty Meeting and to the President regarding all non-academic and non-curricular matters affecting student life on campus,” was only informed that the decision had been made and would be announced to the community. 

The settlement reached between the women’s squash team and Dickinson College was signed by George Stroud on October 6, 2021. The parties involved agreed that Dickinson would publicly announce the reinstatement of the women’s varsity squash team and compile an equity review,  from which a plan would be formed with the purpose of aligning Dickinson with Title IX. The Gender Equity Review was expected to be available “no later than August 31, 2022.” 

As of October 4, however, no official statement had been made by the college regarding where the Gender Equity plan was in the process of development, despite the stated intention of its release two months prior. After The Dickinsonian reached out for a comment, Arthur Bryant of  Bailey Glasser LLP, the Dickinson Women’s Squash team’s legal representation, said “[Dickinson General Counsel] Vince Champion asked us in late August to agree to postpone that deadline until September 30, 2022, so the individual conducting the gender equity review and developing the plan could complete his work.”

Champion corroborated this statement, and explained that “Because Mr. Feldman [the College’s outside expert] had not completed his work as of August 31st,  the College and Mr. Bryant’s clients agreed to an extension of time to publish the College’s equity plan.” 

When asked about the extension, Whitney Finney ’24, a member of the squash team, emphasized she cared much more about Dickinson’s transparency and proactivity regarding the case. She said “Transparency is the goal and Dickinson has had very clear communication with us about the deadline extensions.”

On October 5, the gender equity plan was released to Dickinson College via email signed by Stroud and Champion.

Although it stemmed from the court case between Dickinson and the women’s squash team, the college’s gender equity plan is to be applied broadly across the entire athletics program. The plan, beginning with a statement of Dickinson’s commitment to nondiscrimination and an explanation of what Title IX, described plans for a new Presidential Athletics Gender Equity Task Force.

This task force will publish reports of their work in August of 2024 and 2025. This task force consists of Stroud, Champion, Director of Athletics Joel Quattrone, Senior Woman Administrator/ADID/Head Women’s Lacrosse Coach Kim Masimore, Title IX Coordinator Kat Matic, Assistant Title IX Coordinator Stephen Winn, and Investigation & Research Specialist Jared Boye.

When asked what other areas the task force would address, Champion stated, “financial assistance, equipment and supplies, scheduling of games and practice times, travel and per diem allowance, academic tutoring, coach qualifications, their assignment and compensation, locker rooms, practice and competitive facilities, medical and training facilities and services, housing and dining facilities and services, publicity, support services, and the recruitment of student athletes.”

He explained that his role on the task force is to provide legal counsel, but that the other members have “equal opportunity to contribute their expertise, observations and recommendations.”

When asked about student involvement and representation within the task force, Champion explained that although no student will sit on the committee itself due to “legal issues and confidentiality concerns,” it will work closely with the Presidential Working Group on Title IX and the All-College Committee on Equity, Inclusivity & Belonging, of which three students sit on each.

In the plan, Dickinson promises to evaluate the interest of “prospective/accepted female students” in order to assess their interest in various sports. The report also noted that “Coaches for women’s teams have fewer average years of coaching experience, and thus there may be a disparity in average salaries.” The plan promises to reevaluate the employment and promotion practices within the school’s sports programs.

Other provisions with the plan include the plans for a policy regarding existing single sex sports teams that will allow for the oppposite sex to try out for the team. Dickinson also promised to ensure equitable publicity and training facilities between the male and female sports teams.