The Dartmouth College athletic department has released its Gender Equity Plan, an outline to ensure that all aspects of varsity athletics at the school comply with Title IX by the 2023-24 academic year.
As reported by The Dartmouth student newspaper, the plan was based on external reviews of athletics at the College, which began as a result of a threatened class-action lawsuit by Dartmouth student-athletes in 2021.
Following the summer 2020 elimination of five Dartmouth athletic programs — men’s lightweight rowing, men’s and women’s swimming and diving, and men’s and women’s golf — members from the cut women’s teams pursued legal action in December. A total of 21 plaintiffs from the women’s swimming and diving team and the women’s golf team signed a letter to Dartmouth president Phil Hanlon with a lawyer, Arthur Bryant, alleging that Dartmouth was noncompliant with Title IX as a result of the cuts. The case was settled and all five teams were reinstated by the College on January 29, 2021.
According to The Dartmouth, the resulting settlement required Dartmouth to conduct a full Title IX gender equity review, which was completed in early January. In addition, the athletic department was required to publicly release an action plan for Title IX improvements by March 15, which the department sent directly to all student-athletes and coaches. The plan outlines the categories that will change over the next few years in order to be fully compliant with Title IX.
The case was brought forward specifically regarding Title IX’s requirement that participation opportunities for male and female athletes be roughly proportionate to the ratio of undergraduate enrollment. The plan addresses other areas as well, such as equal provision of funding, supplies, facilities and attention from the athletic department.
“[The plan targets] everything from compliance and human resources, to strength and conditioning and sports medicine,” interim athletics director Peter Roby said. “All those areas will get additional attention to make it better for our students. And hopefully make it easier for them to accomplish their goals as athletes, and also make their experience better off overall.
“The good news is it’s not just about checking a box, but there are things here that are really going to make things better, We’ve committed ourselves to make sure we do those things.”
Bella Lichten, one of the swimming and diving team plaintiffs, told The Dartmouth that while she has appreciated the athletic department’s efforts under Roby, she and her fellow plaintiffs felt frustrated throughout the process and with the lack of transparency from Dartmouth’s Title IX office.
“Even though we at Dartmouth have a Title IX office and Dartmouth Athletics has a Title IX office, it’s really not well mandated unless people come after [the College],” Lichen said. “That's a little bit discouraging. But at the same time, this is activism in action and really cool to be part of.”
According to The Dartmouth, the Gender Equity Plan aims to achieve equity across all sports, not just those which were eliminated in 2020. Amy Shohet, a member of the women’s lacrosse team, cited disparities in facilities’ locations and qualities as examples of where the department needs to focus these coming improvements.
“When they said they were coming out with this [the Gender Equity Plan], I knew it was totally reasonable and necessary,” Shohet said. “There's definitely a discrepancy between men’s and women’s sports, even if it's not obvious to every women's team and every men’s team.
Roby also highlighted that many of the changes discussed in the plan will be gradual, as it will take time to ensure facilities and staff are equal with minimal disruptions to student-athletes and coaches. He added that the athletic department will be reporting on the status of the plan every March for the next three years, The Dartmouth's Macenna Hansen reported..
“At the end of the day, I hope students, particularly women, would feel that their experience was a positive one and they got the support they deserved and they feel a sense of pride in being an athlete at Dartmouth,” Roby said. “[I think this will] end up putting the athletic department in a position for success in the future.”