Women’s field hockey team protests delay in construction of new field

Ashish Samaddar/Staff

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The women’s field hockey team staged a protest Tuesday over the campus’s failure to provide them with a temporary playing facility by their season’s first day of practice.

According to Kiki Williams, an attorney who represents the team, UC Berkeley told the players they would be able to practice at the Hearst La Loma tennis courts — only about one-fourth the size of a regulation field — while the larger Underhill field is converted into a Division I facility suitable for field hockey. The La Loma location, however, is still not ready to be used.

The situation arose from the decision to build a parking structure under Maxwell Family Field, the team’s former home. Williams said Maxwell Field will be redesignated as a second practice space for the football team after construction is finished.

“The (campus) decided to remove the field hockey team from their field, and it’s been over a year without them having either a practice field or a competitive playing facility,” Williams said. “Last year, they had to travel to Stanford to even have a playing facility.”

In order to have somewhere to play this season, Williams said the team agreed to changing fields.

“We were all just excited to have an opportunity to get a new field,” said junior Kristen Lee, a defender on the team. “But we’ve been waiting for so long now that we’ve realized that it’s not an issue of there being no facilities. … It’s a campus issue. They haven’t been doing what they said they would do for a year and a half now.”

Lee and two of her teammates, Courtney Hendrickson and Monica Marrazzo, pursued an action against UC Berkeley under Title IX — the federal law that prohibits gender-based discrimination in education — on the allegation that, according to Williams, the field hockey team is the only UC Berkeley team without an on-campus field.

At the demonstration Tuesday morning, members of the team held signs and chanted, “Where’s the field?” In addition to demonstrating against their lack of facilities, Lee said her team hoped to spark conversation about gender issues in general.

“I think the protests are really great,” Lee said. “They’re raising awareness, not just about our team or athletics, but about how gender bias is affecting our campus.”

Shellie Onstead, the team’s head coach, declined to comment.

Cal Athletics released a statement that said the process of modifying both the La Loma and Underhill fields has been delayed, but that finishing this construction is a top priority for the department. The release further stated the department will “work with and support our field hockey student-athletes in every way possible.”

Contact Logan Goldberg at [email protected].