A message from President Ali Houshmand: Focused on facts, committed to equity

A message from President Ali Houshmand: Focused on facts, committed to equity

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A message from President Ali Houshmand:

You may recall that this past November Rowan University was in the media spotlight after a student wrote a blog post that went viral. The headlines focused on sports bras as appropriate athletic attire, but other concerns drove debate here and beyond and attracted attention from national media about broader concerns related to fair treatment of women student-athletes.

As we exercise due diligence in responding to these matters, I reaffirm our University’s uncompromising support of gender equity, including throughout our women’s athletics programs. Although examining this has been uncomfortable for everyone involved, I am grateful I had the opportunity to speak with the author of the blog and start what has become a very important conversation throughout our University community. I also appreciate the perspectives of more than 100 student-athletes who attended meetings starting in November to discuss issues well beyond that of the women’s Cross Country and Track & Field team training apparel. These interactions have been respectful and, in many cases, eye-opening. 

Through the end of the fall semester and the start of the spring term, we’ve made a great deal of progress toward investigating the questions and allegations of possible gender inequity and Title IX infractions. To that end, I share the following summary of just some of our ongoing efforts to address the issues in a transparent and responsive manner:

  • The Office of Equity & Diversity conducted a Title IX investigation of the specific allegations of gender inequity and harassment brought forward by members of the women’s Cross Country and Track & Field teams. While the investigation did not substantiate the complaint within strict Title IX definitions, it did highlight potential issues related to harassment, bullying and incivility which the Human Resources Department is investigating with guidance from the Office of General Counsel.
  • We have begun to review and revise the Student-Athlete Handbook, Athletic Department Policy Manual, student-athlete policies and all team rules. We clarified the dress code and affirmed that sports bras are appropriate practice attire for Cross Country and Track & Field student-athletes. We also are clarifying policies on scheduling and access to facilities, as well as planning online access to all policies and rules for student-athletes.
  • We hired an independent expert in collegiate athletics programs to conduct an expansive program review focused on Athletics Department policies and procedures and a comprehensive evaluation of Title IX compliance. She already has begun the study, interviewing students, coaches and administrators. Her report, due no later than June 30, 2019, will help guide us in our pursuit of being at the forefront of national best practices.  
  • We learned that students had received incomplete and/or insufficient information on a number of key athletics-related issues, including locker room location, competition and practice apparel, facilities scheduling and general team rules. We are taking steps to improve communication and access to information.

As we focus on improving communication, processes and practices, and holding ourselves accountable, our student-athletes are doing what they do best: distinguishing themselves in the classroom and in competition. Most recently: 

  • Our women’s and men’s Cross Country teams earned All-Academic Team honors. 
  • Our Athletics program’s student-athletes’ overall GPA is 3.18.
  • Profs men's and women’s Swimming &Diving teams, men’s Indoor Track & Field and men’s Basketball captured conference championship titles.
  • Rowan Lacrosse, Baseball and Softball teams are at the top of the pre-season coaches polls.

Since 1923, our student-athletes have trained and competed at the highest level possible, enriching their collegiate experience and helping building pride in our institution. For today’s student-athletes and generations to come, we commit to a welcoming climate and the best of what collegiate athletics offers.

Please feel free to share questions or concerns at officeofthepresident@rowan.edu.