Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Gymnasts dont get their wish

April 23, 2001
Members of the MSU and U-M men’s gymnastics teams and supporters protest Friday morning outside the Hannah Administration Building before a Board of Trustees meeting.

With signs in their hands, an agenda on their minds and hope in their hearts, members of the MSU men’s gymnastics team went to the Board of Trustees meeting Friday in hopes of saving their now extinct program.

But it appears as if all their efforts will go to no avail.

“We’ve pretty much discussed it and pretty much decided it,” Trustee Dorothy Gonzales said after the meeting.

The athletics department decided to cut the program last year in order to comply with Title IX guidelines. Title IX is a federal law that among other things, promotes gender equity in athletics.

Joined by members of both the Michigan men’s gymnastics team and the MSU women’s team, the gymnasts held a protest outside the Administration Building and then brought their signs inside the meeting room during the session for all board members to see.

The efforts were an attempt to get the board to reverse the athletics department’s decision and give the program a two-year extension.

Junior gymnast Jonathan Plante gave a presentation to the board, saying taking away men’s gymnastics was not the best route to equity.

Plante suggested women’s ice hockey be elevated to varsity status, which would balance out male and female athletic scholarships and make the men’s gymnastics program compliant.

Plante also spoke during the meeting of the team’s high grade-point average, its recent success at the Big Ten and NCAA Championship meets and how it represents MSU in the community as other reasons to keep the program.

“Our program is a well-rounded program,” he said. “We represent MSU well academically, athletically and in the community,” he said to the board.

Ann Arbor resident Marcia Federbush, a retired gender equity advocate who spoke to U-M’s administration when it almost cut its men’s gymnastics program in 1994, also spoke to the board on the team’s behalf.

Federbush said gender equity doesn’t “enhance one sex at the expense of the other.”

“It’s like saying we’re not going to allow men to take physics classes because there aren’t enough women enrolled in physics classes,” she said.

The board did not take any action before adjourning and left little indication that the issue would be brought up again.

Trustee Robert Weiss said with football occupying so many of the male athletic scholarships, the numbers are skewed to the point where cuts have to be made to comply with Title IX.

Weiss told the athletes gathered during the meeting the decision was unfortunate and he appreciated how well they represented the school.

“You’re not going home losers,” he said. “You’re just going home disappointed.”

Plante said he hopes the presentation he gave to the board will at the very least open the door for more discussions in the future.

“If they don’t want open dialogue, it’s a dead issue because they don’t have to do anything,” he said.

One board member who seems to be on the gymnasts’ side is Trustee Joel Ferguson.

“I’m opposed to having gender equity by taking away from men,” he said after the meeting. “I’m shocked that women who are advocating gender equity are allowing gender equity to be achieved by subtracting from men. It doesn’t make sense.”

Ferguson was also disappointed the decision to cut the program was made without a public hearing before the athletic council.

“I think there should be an actual peer public hearing before the fact, as opposed to having many conversations after the fact,” he said.

The possibility of seeing the MSU program restored would please the program at U-M because the gymnastics community is a tight-knit community, U-M gymnast Scott Vetere said.

“It’s just a shame All-Americans and Big Ten champions can’t stay here and represent Michigan State,” he said.


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