At the end of May, Willamette University made the difficult decision to discontinue the women’s varsity rowing program following careful consideration of all feasible options to maintain the program. Meeting the standard of competition, sustaining women’s rowing into the future, and achieving the highest possible level of safety for students and coaches require significant financial resources as well as appropriate and functional facilities that are not readily available on or near the campus.
Willamette is committed to expanding women's athletics and offering a high-quality intercollegiate athletics program for student athletes reflective of NCAA Division III and the Northwest Conference’s goals. In addition to developing a long term plan for athletics and gender inclusivity, the process is underway to select a new women’s varsity sport. This planning effort requires ongoing research, consultation and assessment – some of which has already been completed.
The 2013 Sparks Athletic Center renovations were designed to create more inclusive and equitable spaces for all athletes. The renovation expanded locker room facilities to accommodate three men's teams and four women's teams and also provided locker rooms and gender neutral space for the general student body and to Willamette staff. The Department of Athletics has also worked to balance salaries and positions among coaching and administrative staff members.
Upon her appointment, Director of Athletics Valerie Cleary began developing department policies and operating procedures to focus on safety and equity. She will continue working with the Campus Life staff and the university Title IX coordinator on a thorough Title IX review, including reviewing information from a student body athletics interest survey that was completed in April 2016.
Assessment and evaluation will continue during the fall, with estimated completion of the plan for athletics and expanded gender inclusivity in spring 2017. Regular updates will be shared via the Bearcat Bulletin and on the Department of Athletics website.