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Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Working toward inclusive intramurals

By Molly Workman

Dylan Hayes Chris Peroni and Tony Lentz sit at the officials table during the 9 p.m. co-ed basketball league night on Monday, April 30. // Photo by Molly Workman

Athletics are a big deal for many colleges, whether they are varsity teams, club teams or intramurals.

However, students wanting to participate in intramural sports at Western are forced to make a decision about their identity before they can start: male or female.

So, what does this mean for students who identify as non-binary?

The rules for each intramural sport are clearly laid out on the Wade King Student Recreation Center website. In each set, parameters for male and female representation on the field or court are listed. This is to ensure equal and fair playing time for the co-ed leagues, according to Title IX’s guidelines.

The Title IX office on campus, located in Old Main 345, is dedicated to overseeing and responding to discrimination against sex on campus in campus culture and programming.  

Caitlin Sommers is the sports club coordinator for Western and has been spearheading the effort to change this in the recent weeks of receiving feedback on the registration software that Western uses.

“The biggest challenge we are facing is the software program itself,” Sommers said in an email. “We are working with the company to make sure options are made available.”

Jason Barrett, an employee at the Student Technology Center, said he recognized the difficulty behind providing that option in the software from an administrative standpoint.

He said one of the roadblocks would be the website itself. Given that the website used for intramural registration is used by many schools, it would be hard to make one specifically for Western.

“Western wouldn’t have the ability to make the decision for every college unilaterally,” Barrett said. “They would have to come to an agreement across all the different campuses.”

Gender disparities appear to reach further than just registration. In co-ed intramural basketball, female athletes are awarded an extra point for baskets scored, converting two-point shots to three-point shots and three-point shots to four-point shots.

Dylan Hayes is the Sam Carver Gymnasium supervisor during the intramural games. He said he wasn’t quite sure why this was an official regulation.

“It’s just in the rules,” he said.

Sarah Quiring, a participant in intramurals, said she’s frustrated by exceptions like these in the rule book.

“I don’t know why that would be a factor,” she said. “I am a firm believer in earning your stripes and being given a free point, I’m not the best basketball player, but honestly I feel like it’s a little bit demoralizing.”

However, it seems gender inclusivity seems to be an increasing priority of Western’s. The Equal Opportunity Office works to combat discrimination both in the workplace and in general campus culture.

L.K. Langley is the programs manager at the EOO and has been working in conjunction with Sommers to provide a neutral option.

“[Caitlin Sommers] raised the concern to me for input very soon after first receiving feedback from a student about it,” Langley said. “It was clear to me from the beginning of our communication that Caitlin and intramurals take the issue seriously.”

Langley said they are strongly in favor of requiring extra trainings for referees and intramural sports officials following the implementation of a non-binary option.

“Caitlin has asked me if I would provide some training for refs and others who are really out there on the field or in the game with our students and also for staff within our rec center,” they said.

Langley said they are happy to provide training for referees per a request from the athletic department.

“That would be training not just about our systems and how to improve our systems, but also just about how to create intramural environments that are really welcoming to and inclusive of trans and non-binary students,” Langley said.

Rec center works to resolve this issue, but there are many things to take into consideration. Among other changes, rules about equal gender representation on the court or field would have to be modified to include gender non-conforming individuals.

Langley mentioned that Western has the ability to communicate with the registration website, imleagues.com, and express the opinion that if Western has a demand for a gender neutral option that it’s likely other schools do as well.

In the meantime, Sommers offered the option for students to forego the binary gender identification choice. She said students who wish to skip the gender identification question may contact the intramurals staff at intramurals@wwu.edu.

The Western Team for Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Students, as well as the Title IX office, were contacted for this story and did not reply before publication.

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