Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
Support independent student journalism. Support independent student journalism. Support independent student journalism.
The Dartmouth
May 23, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Softball team files federal complaint

The United States Department of Education has launched an investigation of the College for allegedly violating the civil rights of women's softball club members.

The team filed a complaint with the Education Department's Office of Civil Rights in Boston charging that the College discriminates against women by giving preferential treatment and relatively more funding to men's athletic programs.

The complaint accuses the College of violating Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits federally-funded academic institutions from discriminating on the basis of sex in any programs or activities.

For the last four years, the softball team, which is currently a club sport, has been seeking full varsity status. As a varsity team, the women's softball club would be able to compete in Ivy League tournaments and with other varsity teams.

Club status discourages other varsity teams from competing against Dartmouth because games against non-varsity teams do not count towards the number of league games required for post-season play.

Varsity status also brings increase funds which allow privileges such as a coach paid by the College, a maintained field, updated equipment and regular training schedules and facilities.

In the 26-page complaint, filed April 12, the softball club accuses the College of giving baseball varsity status because it is "a men's team."

"To not have a comparable women's sport offering a suitable level of competition is discriminatory," the complaint states.

On several occasions Director of Athletics Dick Jaeger has said the College denied the softball team varsity status because of a lack of sustained interest in the sport and a shortage of funds.

In an interview yesterday, Lauren Greenberg '93, a co-captain of the softball team said, "We have tried to come to a quick resolution for four years which is why we filed the complaint. This complaint is from the Dartmouth women's softball team. It is a whole team effort."

In the complaint, which was signed by Greenberg and co-captain Erica Beisler '93, the softball team argues that the College should have the resources to fund two more women's sports programs.

Though 48 percent of the Dartmouth student body is female, the complaint says only 43 percent of Dartmouth's athletes are women and 42 percent of the athletic budget is allocated to women's programs.

The women's softball team argues that the six percent differential would provide necessary funds to create the new varsity sport programs, one of which should be women's softball. The varsity softball team would cost $20,000, according to their proposal.

The softball team's argument basically implies that if there were a proportionally equal number of men's and women's teams with proportionally equal funding, 48 percent of Dartmouth athletes would be women.

In the complaint the team said its statistics were provided by the Office of Admissions and unofficial percentages from John Bryant, the executive officer in the dean of students office.

On April 30, the Civil Rights office sent College President James Freedman a letter notifying him that as of April 15 an investigation was underway. The Department of Education requested that the College provide extensive information regarding Dartmouth's athletic programs.

"We have received the notice of complaint and we are of course responding to it, and we are going to be answering all of the requests of the Office of Civil Rights," College Spokesman Alex Huppe said.

The Civil Rights Office said that by May 15 it wanted a full account of the general breakdown by number of men's and women's teams, the current enrollment of undergraduates by sex and the budgets of all College teams.

The Civil Rights Office also asked for data regarding the accommodation of student interests and abilities, the provision of equipment, the scheduling of games and times, travel and coaching allowances, provision of locker rooms and competitive facilities, provision of medical and training services, provision of housing and dining services, publicity, support service, recruitment, and financial assistance.

The College appointed Lisa Baer, a lawyer and the temporary director of the College's Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action, as the liaison between Dartmouth and the Department of Education.

Baer declined to comment on the investigation.

The women's softball team claims verbal complaints were first registered against the College in 1989. The College alleged denied the team varsity status because of insufficient student interest for the sport and the lack of college funds.

By July 1991, the team wrote a letter to Jaeger, the athletics director, warning Dartmouth that if it did not grant the team varsity status, the women's softball club would pursue the matter as a Title IX case.

In the complaint the team said the College verbally told the softball club in spring 1992 that it would get a team budget for the 1993 season.

According to the complaint, Dean of Students Lee Pelton told the softball captains that he supported the team's proposal for a three-year transition from club status to varsity.

After an article about the transition to varsity status appeared in the Jan. 19 edition of The Dartmouth, Jaeger sent the club a letter informing the team that varsity status was still pending.

"I think it's premature to state that softball will become an officially funded varsity sport," Jaegar wrote. "In the meantime, we will stand by out commitment to give your team as much monetary and administrative support as possible."

In the complaint the softball team states that it decided to file an official complaint with the Department of Education after a "humiliating confrontation with the baseball team on March 31,1993."

On that date, both teams were mistakenly scheduled to play at the same time on the same field. The baseball coach allegedly demanded that the softball players leave and refused to accommodate the women's team.

The College is currently working on its own internal gender equity report. A committee chaired by Jo Ann Harper, the director of intercollegiate programs, has written the report which is expected to be released this month.

Across the nation, various other colleges and universities are grappling with the issues of Title IX and gender equity.

Last month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit upheld a December 1992 district court order that required Brown University to reinstate its women's gymnastic and volleyball teams to full varsity status after they were reduced in 1992 to club status along with the men's water polo and golf teams.

Judge Bruce Selya, who wrote the opinion for the district court, said institutions which do not provide proportionally equal athletic opportunities for men and women must satisfy women's interests when demonstrated. Therefore, if women show enough interest for a team, Selya said a team must be created.

Females athletes at the University of Pennsylvania, Colgate, Colorado State University and Indiana University are all awaiting decisions in Title IX cases.

By law the Dartmouth investigation must conclude by August 28. If the Office of Civil Rights finds a violation has occurred, the College will have 195 days to voluntarily comply and take corrective actions. If compliance attempts by the College fail, the case is referred to the U.S. Department of Justice.