The Brandeis softball field is a Title IX Violation
“Not to be rude, but can I say something?” says my friend, who has never picked up a softball. I nod yes and they say, “Your field does look like all of the dinky little league fields that I drive by at home.”
This is a harsh but entirely fair critique of the Brandeis softball field. Significant disparities exist between our field and our male counterpart, the Brandeis baseball field. The disparities between the two are a violation of Title IX standards, which prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex.
I am writing on behalf of the Brandeis Varsity Softball team to advocate for the construction of a new field and to educate the Brandeis community about the discrimination and obstacles my team has faced. Additionally, I want to draw attention to the fact that the Brandeis administration is complicit in an ongoing illegal violation as they are well aware of the situation. Currently, staff in the Office of Equal Opportunity are bringing this issue up in meetings with administrators. Still, I would like to highlight the timeline of gender discrimination that the team has gone through.
Five years ago, the class of ’23 members of the team were promised a new field by the head softball coach at the time. In a 2021 meeting with former Vice President of Student Affairs Raymond Oh, he informed us the field would be approved in the April 2022 budget meeting and would be built by October 2022. However, this never came to fruition. The softball and baseball teams met with Director of Athletics Lauren Haynie in 2022. Haynie has been a massive proponent of the quote and planning of our field. She announced that the field was budgeted and planned to start construction in May of 2023 after our season ended.
Despite these plans, in February of 2023, Haynie received word that the construction of a new multipurpose turf softball and baseball field was not approved to be in the fiscal budget for the following year. Additionally, after meeting with Chief Financial Officer Sam Solomon, two sophomores on the softball team asked about the status of the field and whether we have any possible donors to invite to games and win over. The sophomores were given incredibly vague answers and did not receive a response after following up. Solomon told them that constructing a new softball/baseball field is “a long-term priority” for the school. They were not given any information about donors. Following this discouraging and demoralizing conversation, three teammates and I filed complaints with the Office of Equal Opportunity as several disparities cause our field to violate Title IX.
First, our field is not up to NCAA regulation size. This is a significant barrier as it means that we cannot host playoffs or tournament games, which became a point of contention in 2019 and 2021 when we made it to the tournament for our region and could not compete on our field. Additionally, we do not have permanent lights, we have lights that run on generators, used for bad weather and when it gets dark any time past 7pm, whereas baseball has permanent lights
Moreover, if an umpire were to measure the distance of our fence — which falls short because of our location and proximity to the train tracks — they could declare our field unable to be played on and cancel the game. A new field would not only allow us a chance to compete at a higher level and allow us to continue to grow as a program but also look visually appealing. Prospective students and recruits specifically ask to see athletic facilities on tours, which would significantly increase our investment in our students and give us a better reputation.
Another stark contrast between the baseball and softball fields is that the baseball field has concrete dugouts with solid walls. In contrast, our dugouts consist of a chain-link fence with a tarp covering it. “Tarps over chain link are not equivalent to cinder block,” according to a Title IX Q&A document regarding field specifications.
This is especially relevant during the early part of our season when our players are subjected to cold weather with no protection from the chain link for long periods. The construction of our dugouts indicates clear discrimination, which puts the health of our players at risk while also violating Title IX.
The baseball field has a permanent press box and speaker system. In contrast, softball workers must bring a folding table, speaker, and other equipment by hand. This is unfair to the student and athletic department workers and also looks unprofessional.
The quality and drainage between our fields are drastic; the baseball field drains much better and can recover from inconsistent New England weather conditions and rain. It takes days for our field to recover from rain. This issue with the drainage of our field came to a climax last year when Emory University came to play us and laughed at the condition of our field. Not only did this humiliate and embarrass our team’s and school’s reputation, but it also impacted our reputation with other schools. Our field does not drain properly or respond to inclement weather, which is common in the Northeast. We do not have an appropriate or equitable field as baseball as theirs recovers from rain much better.
The proposed and planned multipurpose turf field that Haynie has gotten a quote, plans, and a contractor for would solve all of these problems and disparities. It would establish the Brandeis Softball and Baseball teams on the same, equitable level with the same resources and footing.
The ongoing gender discrimination between our two programs is incredibly frustrating; as our softball program continues to grow and shows exceptional play and capabilities, getting conference, regional, and national recognition for academic and athletic excellence, we are held back by the capabilities of our facilities.
The next step in pushing for our new field is asking the administration about funding; the OEO has been speaking to administrators on our behalf, and when I asked the communications department for their comment on the matter they responded, “The administration appreciates the concerns the softball team has raised about its field and is looking into options to address them.”
Fiona Doiron ’25 comments, “The new field would be nothing short of amazing. It would mean that the hard work of this current team and past team’s constant dedication to fighting for access to an equitable field finally paid off. The new field would not only comply with Title IX, but the all-turf complex in the current baseball and softball field would be a new space for other students and organizations on campus to utilize, whether it be for club or intramural sports. For the team, the new field would show recruits that the University invests in athletics and cares about the success of its female athletes. It would improve recruiting and secure Brandeis softball’s future of continuing to be a constant threat at the conference and national level.”
The proposed field would not only be for the softball and baseball teams but also for club and intramural sports. The profit generated from renting out a much more appealing field in the summer and off-season would help to offset the costs of the long-term investment to build the field and continue profiting in the future.
Lily Medici ’23 expressed her and older players’ frustration and said, “A new field would be confirmation to me that our voices as female athletes are being heard. A new field not only symbolizes equality in sports but represents over a decade-long fight to correct the mistakes made in the past. This field would allow the present and future student-athletes to show their full potential. It would no longer put us at a disadvantage against other schools in the UAA (University Athletic Association). For the team, a new field would show us that our advocacy and determination do not fall on deaf ears. We, as female student-athletes, would finally feel equal to our male counterparts. A new field is also a message to young student-athletes that fighting for equality and getting the results that you want is possible.”
If this article swayed you to support us, please put your name down to support us in our journey to fight this discrimination on behalf of all female athletes. We’d love all of the support we can get! Our next home game is Tuesday, April 11, at 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. Our games are fast-paced, competitive, and truly fun to watch, and our full schedule can be found here. We are an incredibly upbeat, fun, and strong team this year, and we hope to see you there. Please come out and support us and see our field for yourself.