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Federal Push Will Expand Women's Sports

Kali Tudisco ‘15,  Staff Writer


Merrimack College has agreed to form three new women’s sports teams in response to a review by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR).

One of the new teams will be women’s ice hockey, projected to play in Division I by 2016. The OCR reported that women were greatly underrepresented in Merrimack athletics and that the college fell short of compliance with Title IX. This year is the 40th anniversary of Title IX, a law that prevents gender discrimination in any education-related activity receiving federal funding, as well as the 40th anniversary of Merrimack’s very first women’s athletic team, the basketball team.

Yet, according to the OCR report, about 65 percent of the athletic opportunities at the school were for men, while only about 35 percent were for women. The formation of the new women’s teams is projected to bring these opportunities to an equal level. In addition to the creation of new hockey, water polo, and swimming and diving teams, the college also plans to expand three recently formed women’s teams: track and field, crew, and golf. The college has outlined a plan to bring such matters as coaching salaries and scholarships for these teams up to the level of their equivalent men’s teams within the next five years, as well as have them compete in the same division as the men.

Ideally, once completed, the expansion of the Volpe complex will be helpful in allowing the men’s and women’s teams to get equal practice time, particularly in the case of ice hockey. To ensure that Merrimack maintains its Title IX compliance, an official Title IX Committee has also been formed, per the resolution between the college and the OCR. The Title IX Committee will meet three times a year to review Title IX compliance and discuss any new issues that arise. Although most people only associate Title IX with athletics, it is important to note that the law covers all aspects of sex-based discrimination and misconduct. That means that the committee will also deal with issues of admissions discrimination, sexual harassment, and sexual assault.

The committee, headed by Assistant Vice President of Administration and Personnel Linda Murphy includes five deputies whose jobs are to monitor, investigate, and respond to cases of discrimination. In addition, the committee plans to implement a campus-wide education program, including training to foster a positive climate on campus and stop misconduct before it is an issue. Those who have concerns or questions about issues of gender discrimination or would like to report an instance of it are encouraged to contact the coordinator or any one of the deputies, who can provide them with guidance about what actions can be taken.

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