Dean Calls 'Parity' Ideal

Dean of the Faculty Jeremy R. Knowles this week indicated he prefers "perfect parity" in the funding of men's and women's intercollegiate teams, but declined to define "parity" in terms of specific numbers.

Knowles said in an interview Tuesday that in light of imbalances in alumni donations and equipment requirements, he considers athletics funding close to equitable, but "perfect parity would be even better."

His comments came after an internal athletic department report obtained by The Crimson last week showed that the athletic department spends more than twice as much money on men's teams as on women's.

The internal report defended the funding discrepancy by saying the percentage of funds spent on women's sports approximates the percentage of athletes who are women. Thirty-two percent of the department's budget goes to women's sports, and 35 percent of Harvard athletes are women, according to the report.

While stressing the difficulty of balancing sports whose alumni contribute in different amounts, Knowles said the vaguely-defined "parity" would be an improvement on the present situation.


"I am glad [Director of Athletics] Bill Cleary manages to bring these percentages as close as they are. Of course, perfect parity would be even better," he said.

Defining what constitutes equitable treatment of teams has become a key issue in the burgeoning controversy over how Harvard funds and supports its men's and women's athletics teams. In a 90-minute meeting last week, coaches of women's teams and athletic department officials debated that very issue.

Without offering a specific definition, Knowles said equity should be defined in ways other than money.

"There should be an equal quality of support for men and women athletes," Knowles said. "It's not the numbers, it's the quality."

Knowles said it is not his purpose to "micromanage all of that [athletics] operation" and defended the budget gap based on the varying costs of equipping different sports. He said he believes more men play equipment-intensive sports than women.

"I can understand that the provision of protective equipment for heavy contact sports can be more expensive," said Knowles. "[That] justifies some difference because not many people are going to claim that women participate in quite so many contact sports."

Regardless of such differences, some coaches of women's sports and their players say the percentage of funding spent on women's sports should be more in line with the percentage of Harvard students who are women, 42 percent.

And the department's internal report detailed discrepancies in areas other than funding for men's and women's teams, from recruiting resources to practice time at Bright Hockey Center.

Alessandra M. Galloni contributed to the reporting of this article.

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