In a five-year plan revealed on June 29, Stony Brook Athletic Director Shawn Heilbron and the athletics department outlined several initiatives related to Title IX, including a plan to add a new women’s sport to the department.
Title IX is the federal clause that prohibits discrimination based on sex at any federally-funded educational institution.
The plan, titled “Together We Transform,” mentions the possible “successful addition of a new women’s sport program,” but it does not specify which women’s sport would be added. However, Heilbron did mention field hockey as a strong possibility in an interview with The Statesman.
“Certainly with our geographic footing and the area we’re in, one sport we’re looking at is field hockey,” he said. “But we still have to look at the costs.”
The America East Conference already sponsors field hockey competitions among the teams at University at Albany, University of New Hampshire, University of Maine, University of Vermont and University of Massachusetts Lowell.
However, Title IX does not just apply to participation in sports. An April 4, 2011 letterfrom the Department of Education Office of Civil Rights clarifies that Title IX’s definition of discrimination includes sexual harassment and assault.
“Typically, when we think of Title IX, we think of participation and equality,” Heilbron said. “But we also have to think about discrimination issues like assault. We do not want to be reactive. We want to be proactive.”
The five-year plan states that Athletics will “utilize life skills coordinators and student-athlete development staff to create appropriate educational opportunities for student-athletes to learn about the most topical issues surrounding Title IX concerns including, but not limited to, sex discrimination, sexual harassment and sexual violence.”
Donna Woodruff, executive associate director and deputy Title IX coordinator of Athletics, works with Marjolie Leonard, the university’s director of Title IX and Risk Management, to handle cases of misconduct, Heilbron said.
“We work hand-in-hand with campus, literally partners in handling misconduct,” he said. “We work hard to avoid these situations, but when they do happen, we move as quickly as possible to gather information.”
As for funding of women’s programs, the five-year plan states that Athletics will guarantee that “operating budgets, scholarship support and coaching salary levels are analyzed regularly to ensure that each individual program is positioned for success.”
The federal Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act requires every federally-funded, co-educational college or university that participates in intercollegiate athletics to publish an annual report that compares the amount of money spent on men’s and women’s sports programs. Stony Brook’s EADA report for the 2013-2014 reporting year is available on the federal Department of Education’s website.
The report shows that women’s teams had 211 total participants at the beginning of the season while men’s teams had 311 total participants. Sixty percent of athletically-related student aid went toward men’s teams, and 40 percent went toward women’s teams. Recruiting expenses totaled $197,998 for men’s teams and $80,464 for women’s teams.
Total expenses reached $8,993,139 for men’s teams and $4,854,655 for women’s teams. Men’s teams made $3,800,191 in revenues, while women’s teams made $1,282,341 in revenues. Heilbron explained that much of the differences in the expenses and revenues between men’s and women’s sports has to do with football, which had 99 participants.
“Football throws the numbers off, which is why [Title IX] is such an important part of our initiatives,” Heilbron said. “We want to support football, but we want to support women’s sports, too. Football is the most expensive sport, and it has the most student participants. There’s no women’s sport that has comparable participation.”
Federal regulations require that the Department of Education evaluate the level of equality between men’s and women’s sports by considering factors like equipment and supplies, scheduling and games and practices, provision of practice and training facilities, and publicity.
“It’s absolutely critical that we ensure that women’s programs have everything they need to accomplish what we set out to do,” Heilbron said.
Read this story on The Statesman’s website here.