Let it be heard, President of Rowan University, Ali A. Houshmand, had this to say: “The University recognizes that while the verbal policy attempted to set standards, it could be misunderstood and does not accommodate today’s training practices across sports. We recognize this may stir debate within the University community and beyond. By clarifying our support of women’s athletics and its student-athletes, Rowan strongly affirms its commitment to ensuring that women are able to train and perform at the highest levels.”
Is this statement enough?
At the time of publishing “The War on Women: Who Tells Women What to Wear on a Run?”, Rowan University had not released a public statement to the Odyssey article. While I did do an internet search—I Googled it—I did not find anything. I will be honest and I did not at the time read the Rowan University athletic guidelines.
Two things we learned about this story that are important:
1) A written guideline states that only one team can practice at a Rowan Athletic facility at a time.
2) A verbal policy that the school had a ‘shirt rule,’ all student athletes in a NCAA sport were expected to practice and compete in shirts (i.e. no bare chests). This was learned from the presidents statement that was released after publication.
I respect and understand the policy that does not allow two teams to train at the same time. Yes, for space saving reasons most tracks end up around football fields. In New Jersey, Rowan University’s layout is the same (check it out on Google Maps). While I thought Rowan University had a massive field complex when I looked at the map I realize now how limited their space was. The football team cannot train anywhere else. There is a high school track just adjacent to the Rowan University Track. I stand by Rowan University’s policy to not have two teams practicing at the same time.
Now this verbal policy, which was apparently in step with a NCAA policy. I have looked online, and I will admit, my research was not all that in-depth. A Sports Bra, referred to as a ‘Bra’ in the NCAA policies is a piece of apparel, not a a piece of equipment. What I could not find in the policies was anything about appropriate athletic attire for training. Despite the fact Rowan University does not provide the teams with uniforms, the University should never have had a ‘shirt policy’ for training. Why is a sports bra (or bare chested men for that matter) when it’s hot and humid out not appropriate attire?
I took a glance at the Rowan University Athlete Handbook. It has all the ‘right’ things in it. Rowan University Athletics prides itself on the values of excellence, community, integrity, teamwork, and education. It goes on to write that it holds it’s student-athletes to “high moral and ethical standards.”
Here is where I’m at after all of this publicity: Even if there is only a 1% chance that what the football team said about the women running in sports bras being distracting, then this is still worth talking about. And there is a chance this is true, Gina Capone, cross-country team member is quoted saying: “The football coach had a problem with the women running on the track. He said that it was distracting.” That is the type of language and culture that has to go. I wrote this on Twitter yesterday: “No, you will not tell me what to wear. You will not tell me that my body distracts you. You will respect my choice to wear a crop when I want to. I am not doing anything that harms you. In turn, I will act with kindness and respect. In turn, I will act with kindness and respect.”
So Rowan University, while you are going to do the right thing and abolish your sports bra verbal policy, and write a formal written policy allowing cross-country (and presumably track and field) women to practice in sports bras, don’t you think you need to hold up your values and make sure that these men on your football team—and any other teams for that matter—are treating women with the respect they deserve? These are the lessons to learn from. These are the moments that these football boys can learn a lesson in integrity such that they can be honourable, ethical men when they graduate from your University. After all, we women may have to meet them out in the world one day.