Universities are not funding women’s varsity teams fairly, says Mike Redmond.
The provincial NDP Leader said gender equity is the elephant in the room and it is time for action.
“It’s a real problem and no one really wants to speak about it,” he told The Guardian Thursday. “Equality is taking a back seat to the erroneous and much promoted myth that men’s teams are simply better than women’s teams.”
Redmond, who was the part-time coach of the Panthers women’s soccer team from 2004 to 2012, said the Panthers men’s hockey team received $100,000 in core funding from the university while the women’s hockey team received zero in core funding.
While the teams would also receive funding from the athletics and recreation department, they would have to raise a significant portion of their budget annually.
The men’s hockey team had skates paid for, Redmond said, while the women’s rugby team had to raise money for cleats or buy their own.
Redmond doesn’t want to see the men’s teams lose funding, but wants the women’s teams to receive the same amount of core funding. And he is not talking about the funds raised through the gate or by booster clubs.
“We’re not asking the alumni of the men’s hockey team to raise money for women’s hockey. We’re asking for the university to pay its fair share … that the dollars at the start of the season are equal,” he said.
Redmond said he raised the issue internally at the university and at Atlantic University Sport meetings in the past. So why didn’t he raise it publicly then?
“It’s your salary and you’re also warned off as a coach that’s not a road you want to go down,” he said. “I have a responsibility not to leave it alone in my capacity as leader of the NDP.”
Because the university receives public funding, Redmond said, he is shining a light on the issue while fulfilling a promise to female athletes.
It’s a real problem and no one really wants to speak about it. - MIke Redmond
He is calling on the Atlantic University Sport to establish a committee to examine the issue and host a summit with stakeholders. He would also like athletic directors to submit funding for each of its team so a clear picture can be gathered.
Bill Schurman is in his first month as UPEI’s athletic director. While not sure of all the details Redmond outlined, he spoke to The Guardian in general terms.
“Obviously we want to be a department that treats everyone fairly, but I don’t know all the formulas yet,” he said.
The university is facing a budget shortfall for the coming year and an analysis of all programs will be done.
“Part of the reason why I was approached to go there is to use the resources I have (available to) me and try to determine how we can make a financial model that works based on the fact that there’s not going to be any more money from the university,” Schurman said.
He added everything is on the table as it looks to improve the financial situation and is interested in talking with as many people as possible to come up with solutions. Schurman is looking forward to meeting with Redmond to discuss the issues he raised further.
“Whatever suggestions he has, I’ll be all ears, if he can figure out a formula that’s going to make this work,” he said.
Redmond also has an issue with the number of full-time coaches compared to part-time between the genders and criticized the media for paying little attention to women athletes’ successes. He said two-thirds of the 71 stories the AUS ran on its website between August and October were about men.