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Bucknell University Moving Forward With Gender Equity Plan



University to discontinue wrestling, reclassify men's crew program Lewisburg, Pa. --- Bucknell University President Steffen H. Rogers announced today that wrestling will be discontinued as a varsity sport and the men's crew program reclassified at Bucknell, beginning with the 2002-2003 season. The decision was made as part of the university's Gender Equity Plan, to bring its athletic program into full compliance with Title IX. "We deeply regret the need to make this decision and the effect it will have on our student-athletes," said Rogers. "We have thoroughly explored every possible alternative to cutting or reclassifying men's teams, but in the long run this is the best decision we can make to bring our athletic program into full compliance with federal law." Starting with the 2002-2003 school year, men's crew will no longer be sponsored as a varsity sport, but instead will be classified as a self-sustaining "club varsity" program. Wrestling will end its extramural activity at Bucknell -- unless sufficient competition for a club program can be identified. The university has made significant progress under its current gender equity plan, largely by adding two women's sports -- golf and water polo -- as a first step in 1998, but it will not reach the key milestones of its gender equity plan without eliminating some men's teams. "Fair and equitable treatment of men and women in intercollegiate athletics is the right thing to do," said Rogers, also stressing that it's a matter of federal law. The Gender Equity plan, which is required for NCAA certification and in the eyes of the university is morally and legally the right thing to do, was developed by a special university committee. The committee, appointed by then-President William D. Adams, issued a final report containing 42 specific recommendations, all with the end goal of achieving equity by the year 2001-2002. The club varsity status for men's crew will be a new sport sponsorship level at Bucknell. Club varsity status will maintain men's crew on a self-sustaining basis and allow the program to continue to compete at its current level against similar club varsity and varsity programs. Charlie Pollock '70, vice president for student affairs, agreed that the decision was immensely difficult to make, but that the university's current varsity participation rates for men and women, respectively, made it necessary. Although 48.7 percent of Bucknell's undergraduates are women, only 41.9 percent of the student-athletes are women. Therefore, Bucknell falls short in keeping women represented in its varsity programs to the same degree they are represented in the student body. Currently, Bucknell sponsors 14 women's teams and 14 men's teams for a total of 28 intercollegiate sports. That ranks as the third-highest total in the Patriot League behind the two service academies, and as one of the highest totals in the country. "The university cannot afford to keep adding women's sports as an answer to its gender equity problems, given the university's other pressing budgetary needs," Pollock said. John Hardt, director of athletics, also expressed his sympathy to the athletes and their families. "In an effort to meet our gender equity goals, retain excellence in our existing sports programs, and be fiscally responsible, this administration and advisory bodies, including the Committee on Athletics, have carefully looked at all possible options. It is a very difficult decision, and eliminating sports is done only as a last resort. But the reality for us and many of our peer institutions is that cuts are inevitable. Our goal is to comply with Title IX, while at the same time offering all our student-athletes an athletic program that provides the very best opportunity to be competitive and successful." # # # # # Q&A ABOUT GENDER EQUITY IN ATHLETICS AT BUCKNELL Question 1. As a result of this decision, what exactly will happen to men's wrestling and men's crew at Bucknell? Answer. The teams will continue to compete as usual through the end of their 2001-2002 seasons. After that, men's crew will no longer be sponsored as a varsity sport, but instead will be classified as a self-sustaining "club varsity" program, while wrestling will end its extramural activity. Question 2. What is this "club varsity" level that the men's crew will be classified as, starting with the 2002-2003 school year? A. Club varsity will be a new sport sponsorship level at Bucknell. Club varsity status will maintain men's crew on a self-sustaining basis and allow the program to continue to compete at its current level against similar club varsity and varsity programs. Question 3. Are these decisions final? A. Yes, insofar as varsity sponsorship goes. However, if club status would have any meaning for wrestling, and if sufficient competition for a club program can be identified, we may be able to keep wrestling as a club sport. Question 4. What if new ways are identified (other than proportionality) to reliably demonstrate Title IX compliance, or other ways of achieving proportionality are discovered? A. Bucknell will continue to define the mission of athletics in its total educational program, and to assess the amount of resources being committed to athletics. In the context of such analysis, a different or larger mix of varsity programs could certainly be considered, as long as gender equity would still be maintained. Question 5. Why did Bucknell have to take these actions to achieve gender equity? A. This was a decision we came to only after thoroughly exploring every other alternative, and it's a decision we reached with regret. We understand the effect it will have on the student-athletes who have participated in these two sports. But the fair and equitable treatment of men and women in intercollegiate athletics is not only the right thing to do, it's a matter of federal law. Question 6. But there must be some other way for Bucknell to meet its gender equity goals and comply with the law. A. Unfortunately, there isn't. For a school of its size, Bucknell offers an extremely high number of opportunities for student-athletes to take part in varsity sports. Currently, there are a total of 28 varsity teams at Bucknell -- 14 men's and 14 women's teams. That's among the highest in the nation. Also, as in all things, we have to have balance in our athletics program, and ensure that our athletics program is in balance with everything else we do at Bucknell -- teach, provide opportunities for research, help graduating students find jobs, launch new buildings where needed, and maintain our existing ones -- so that in everything we do, as a university, we best serve the needs of our students. Question 7. How about adding women's sports? A. We've done that. We added women's golf and women's water polo in 1998, in an effort to meet proportionality requirements. And we've made progress, no doubt about it. But it's clear we will not achieve full compliance with Title IX without taking action that affects the number of men's teams. Question 8. What kinds of outreach did you do in making this decision? A. We have made serious efforts to reach out to the university community and the wrestling community. Over the years -- and especially over the past several months -- we have had many lengthy and detailed conversations with coaches and athletes, as well as the athletics department, students, parents, alumni, club members, the board of trustees, and others. We know the athletes especially will find the decision disappointing, as will some alumni, and we sincerely regret having to take this action. But we also have substantial support for this decision on several fronts. For instance, Bucknell's Committee on Athletics, which is part of the regular university governance process, agrees that cuts had to be made to achieve the goals of our gender equity plan. Question 9. We've heard that a Bucknell wrestling alumnus offered the university $500,000 to support women's varsity sports, so the wrestling team could stay viable. That sounds like a lot of m
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