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An Appeal to the Administration: Spring 1988

 

 

Despite some efforts to lessen the differences in resource allocation between male and female athletes at Middlebury in the 1980s, in the spring of 1988, all the women’s team captains got together and made a decision to go to the office of Tom Lawson, then Athletic Director. They felt a pressing need to express their thoughts to the Athletic Department about the treatment of female athletes at the College.

Among these outspoken female athletes were Megan Kemp ’88, senior co-captain of Women’s Lacrosse and member of Women’s Field Hockey, and Ingrid Punderson ’88, captain of the Women’s Ski Team and member of Women’s Soccer.

 

The 1988 Women's Lacrosse Captains - Megam Kemp (left)
The 1988 Women’s Lacrosse Team Co-captains:
Megan Kemp ’88 was on the left.
Ingrid Punderson
Ingrid Punderson ’88 was the captain of the Women’s Ski Team.

 

Kemp was the fourth and the youngest in her family to go to Middlebury. Her brother Erik Kemp ’80 was the co-captain on Men’s Lacrosse and also played football; one of her sisters Jennifer Kemp ’87 was a co-captain as well during her years. Triggered by the marked differences in her athletic experience and that of her brother and her boyfriend, and the divergence in the level of respect that female and male athletes received, Kemp was not pleased with the inequalities in the system and wanted to do something about it. Moreover, as she recalled in a recent phone interview, most of the sportswomen at that time were part of the generation that was experienced the benefits of Title IX. Kemp and her teammates played their sport all through high school and “took sports seriously like boys did”. Kemp went to a private high school herself and she thought “boys and girls were treated the same way and were given equal opportunities.” Yet the situation at Middlebury was not what she had desired. She stated, “We just want equal athletic opportunities as well. We just want them to respect us as athletes.[1]

 

The Middlebury Campus 1988 April - senior co-captain Megan Kemp '88 led her team to victory
Megan Kemp ’88 (left) Led Her Team to Success on the Field.

Ingrid Punderson In Action

Ingrid Punderson ’88 Was a Leader and an Anchor on the Women’s Alpine Team.

 

Punderson on the other hand, not only was a two-sport athlete in a co-ed team (Alpine Skiing) and a women’s team (Soccer), but was also a three-time All-American downhill skier. She felt that on the Alpine Ski Team “both male and female skiers trained on the same courses and women were treated really well”, yet “there were clear distinctions between men’s and women’s team for soccer.” She said that the situation was “very discouraging” as the Women’s Soccer Team was coached by four different coaches in just four years: Patty Foster in 1984 (who also coached Women’s Lacrosse as a substitution for Missy Foote while Foote was on maternity leave), Russ Reilly from 1983-1986 (who also coached Men’s Basketball), Eric Wilson 1985-1986, and the Bill Beaney from 1987-1993, who was hired as the Men’s Ice Hockey coach in 1986. With a new coach every one or two years, two coaches in certain years, and coaches whose expertise was not in soccer, it can be imagined that there was not much consistency in coaching throughout those years for the Women’s Soccer Team. Punderson’s father was in fact a graduate from Middlebury himself and went on to coach the first men’s soccer varsity team at the College in 1954, while Punderson’s younger sister played lacrosse and field hockey as a Panther. Before going to Middlebury, Ingrid Punderson attended a ski academy and was serious about her sport. She thought that all student-athletes should be given the chance to continue to “pursue their sport when they get to college for potential to growth.” It seemed that Punderson had the opportunity to do so in skiing but not so much in soccer.

 

The Middlebury Campus.1988.04.29.pp1

The Middlebury Campus, April 1988: Details of the Charges against the Department.

 

Spearheaded by Kemp, Punderson, Amy Sheldon ’88, co-captain of Women’s Tennis, and Sarah Poinier ’88, senior captain of Women’s Soccer, the group drafted “a letter of grievance” to Lawson and delivered it to his office on April 28th, 1988[2]. According to the April 29th, 1988 issue of the Middlebury Campus, They complained about[3]:

-The lack of women’s varsity coaches; there were only 4 female coaches as opposed to 10 male coaches in the Athletic Department of 26 varsity sports.

-The administration hired coaches for major men’s sports and then assigned them to be the head coaches of certain women’s sports “regardless of their expertise in those sports”.

-More specifically, Mike Gerber, the assistant football coach at the time, was appointed to be the Women’s Ice Hockey head coach as well; at times, he would have to skip the ice hockey practices and go to the football field; he apparently “struggled on ice skates[4]” and “was barely able to stand on skates[5]”. Moreover, the women’s soccer coach back then, Bill Beaney, was in fact an ice hockey coach; soccer was not the area that he was best at.

-Men’s teams had priority in scheduling games on Saturdays.

-Men’s teams enjoyed better treatment when travelling: the Football Team was allowed spend the night when they playing against Hamilton on the road but the Women’s Lacrosse Team had to journey down to Hamilton and come back up all on the same day.

-Women’s teams changed coaches more often: Women’s Soccer had four different coaches in the span of four years from 1984-1987.

-The Football Team had two paid graduate assistants but the women’s teams had none.

 

The Middlebury Campus.1988.04.29.pp3

The Middlebury Campus, April 1988: Details of the Charges against the Department.

 

After the letter submitted, there was no response from the Athletic Department because Lawson was out of his office[6]. In the May 6th, 1988 issue of the Middlebury Campus, Tim O’Shea, a writer for the school paper, expressed his point of view and his support for the female athletes in a sports column. In his point of view, the charges towards the “unresponsive athletic department” were reasonable and understandable. He believed that the system was unfair and the complaints were not “another case of feminism gone amok”[7]. Missy Foote, who was the Head Women’s Lacrosse and Field Hockey Coach back then, recounted, “Our athletic director suggested to me that I that I calm down the students who were complaining; my reply was that I supported them.”

 

The Middlebury Campus.1988.05.06.pp11

Tim O’Shea’s column in the 1988
May issue of the Middlebury Campus.

 Missy Foote with Players on the Sideline
Coach Missy Foote (3rd left)
and Players on the Sidelines

 

 

The Administration’s response finally came three months later in the fall. Changes in coaching positions were made and were detailed in the November 4th, 1988 issue of the Middlebury Campus. Some of the main points of the one-page write-up are as follow[8]:

-Patty Ross, former Olympic nordic skier and member of the U.S. National Team, joined the coaching staff.

-A Women’s Soccer “B Team” was established.

-Two female graduate assistants, Sarah Poiner and Paula Ricciardelli from the Class of 1988 were hired to help out with the Women’s Soccer “B Team”, and the Women’s Tennis Varsity and “B Team” respectively.

-Graduate assistant Kim Mayard ‘88 was hired to work directly with the female sports captains to facilitate better communication.

-Bill Mandigo, who had vast experience on the ice, was hired to be the new Women’s Ice Hockey head coach and the assistant football coach as well.

 

The Middlebury Campus.1988.11.04.pp16

The Administration’s Belated Response to the
Complaints on the Middlebury Campus, November 1988.

 

In spite of these efforts, some old problems still existed. In the write-up, senior Marci Griffith ’89 of Women’s Ice Hockey commented, “Last year we had terrible times and this year and it’s no different this season. We have practice and the coach (Bill Mandigo) can’t be there because he’s at football practice.” Karen Griffith ’87, member of Varsity Women’s Lacrosse and Soccer, added, “I can see that the Administration is doing something, but they’ve only just started.” That fall, both Kemp and Punderson came back as volunteer coaches for the JV Field Hockey Team and the JV Women’s Soccer Team respectively

Undoubtedly, the protest made by the forthright women’s sports team captains was a crucial wake up call to the College and changes were clearly underway; yet it was also obvious that more sincere and earnest endeavors from the Old Chapel were necessary to achieve equity between male and female athletics at Middlebury.

 

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[1] T.S. So, “The Middlebury Campus April 29th, 1988: Women’s Varsity Sports Captains Draft Letter Concerning Imbalance in Men’s and Women’s Athletics”, p.3

[2] T.S. So, “The Middlebury Campus April 29th, 1988: Women’s Varsity Sports Captains Draft Letter Concerning Imbalance in Men’s and Women’s Athletics”, p.1

[3] T.S. So, “The Middlebury Campus April 29th, 1988: Women’s Varsity Sports Captains Draft Letter Concerning Imbalance in Men’s and Women’s Athletics”, p.1, 3

[4] Tim O’Shea, “The Middlebury Campus November 4th, 1988: Women’s Sports Still Searching for Equality”, p. 16

[5] Tim O’Shea, “The Middlebury Campus May 6th, 1988: A Step Forward”, p. 11

[6] T.S. So, “The Middlebury Campus April 29th, 1988: Women’s Varsity Sports Captains Draft Letter Concerning Imbalance in Men’s and Women’s Athletics”, p.3

[7] Tim O’Shea, “The Middlebury Campus May 6th, 1988: A Step Forward”, p. 11

[8] Tim O’Shea, “The Middlebury Campus November 4th, 1988: Women’s Sports Still Searching for Equality”, p. 16

 

 

 

 

 

 

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