When a women’s athletic team is booted from its home turf, told multiple times that a campus practice space was not available and forced to commute to Stanford University — a situation no other Cal Athletics team faces — you have a serious equity problem.
This issue is not a new one. After construction began in December 2013 on Maxwell Family Field, the old home for the women’s field hockey team, the players knew they would be displaced for their 2014 season. But the situation was aggravated when the team found out that its temporary offseason practice space at the La Loma tennis courts was not ready. In response, team members held a protest this week, demanding to know, “Where’s our field?” — a question the campus has failed to adequately address.
Cal Athletics has repeatedly said field construction for the field hockey team is a priority. But if that were truly the case, we wouldn’t need to be editorializing again on the subject. Had the football team been faced with the same scenario, Cal Athletics would have resolved the issue with a level of haste that is clearly absent here.
The underlying question is whether the university has violated Title IX, a federal law that prohibits gender discrimination in educational and athletic pursuits. Several team members are considering filing a lawsuit against the university on these grounds.
For the time being, campus administrators, Cal Athletics and sports fans everywhere need to recognize the immense pressure this inequity has placed on team members. For some players, a quarter of their athletic career at UC Berkeley was spent waking up before 6 a.m. multiple times per week to commute to a rival university that still managed to find space for them. A player’s graduation was delayed because she had to drop two morning classes. Others may have also faced mental and academic strains.
Home field advantage is a real thing. Moreover, knowing that one’s home institution looks upon its men’s and women’s teams equally is paramount.
The players of the Cal field hockey team deserve answers. They deserve an appropriate field. They deserve to be treated with the same respect and afforded the same resources as any other team.
Expelling a women’s team to build a parking lot and later allocating the space to football players for another practice field was disconcerting but understandable — from a profit perspective — to a degree. We could have sympathized with the campus if it had appropriately planned ahead and prepared a new space for the field hockey team. But these continual delays are inexcusable.
If team members ultimately file a lawsuit against the university, we stand by their decision to do so, just as we stand by them getting their field back.
Editorials represent the collective opinion of the Senior Editorial Board as written by the opinion editor.