As the women's crew shell "Title IX" made one of its first trips down the Charles last Thursday, Director of Athletics William H. Cleary '56 announced a comprehensive plan to augment Harvard's compliance with the 21-year-old statute of the same name.
This program, funded by "very generous donations," will bring Harvard and Radcliffe sports closer to that long-sought goal known as "parity." The College will field 13 men's and 13 women's Level I teams--teams with first priority for funds and practice time.
This undertaking could have come sooner. Last spring, several coaches of women's teams argued that they were getting the short end of the stick in competing with parallel men's teams for practice time, staff support, and University funds. But at least the Department of Athletics acted before it faced the threat of legal action--more than can be said for several other universities that were late in complying.
We applaud the efforts of the women's coaches and athletes who stuck their necks out last spring for the cause of their programs. While they risked a loss of favor in the Department of Athletics, the coaches were vehement and frank. At the very least, their efforts raised awareness about a serious and long-existing problem; quite possibly, they could have provided the impetus for these new donations.
The miraculous--and mysterious--donated funds could be part of the reason this initiative sprung to life so quickly. We can only wish that all University departments and committees were as quick to respond to similar outcries of equal seriousness, whether or not necessary monies became immediately available.
We hope that the department--and tight-lipped Senior Associate Director of Athletics Francis J. Toland--will end their unnecessary policy of secrecy and make public its operating budgets for individual teams. This secrecy alone has fueled suspicions about just how committed the athletics department is to women's athletics.
In spite of the overwhelmingly positive tone of the announcement, we are bemused by a comment by Dean of the College L. Fred Jewett '57, who said that "this has been part of a long-term project on the part of the department...It's not something that's just come up overnight." Correct, this issue has been around for 21 years; the athletics staff only made a large enough stink about it last semester, though.
Fortunately, misplaced comments do not change the great opportunities that this new plan has to offer. The Department of Athletics has shown the skill necessary to use its resources (newly received and otherwise) to create some of the far-reaching, egalitarian reforms that we've all been waiting for.
Time will tell if these reforms achieve true parity in the department. We suspect more initiatives will be needed. The Department of Athletics will only have achieved true parity when one can trade the resources of the men's program for those of the women's program--without anyone noticing the difference.
The department still has to work on areas such as recruiting and treatment of athletes on campus, but parity is one area in which it is finally making headway. This doesn't mean the department's job is done; it only means that the task at hand has changed. Now, athletics officials must see to it that their resource allocations and recruiting practices work toward ensuring a level of participation that better reflects the population of the College.
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