After Title IX investigation, women see changes on track

by Laura Wiersema, Editor-in-Chief

INDIANOLA, Iowa — Five months after a Title IX investigation into sexism accusations, the Simpson College women’s track team is starting off their year on the right foot.

Senior Mandy Brown, a former member of the women’s track team, submitted a scathing editorial to The Simpsonian in April regarding a discriminatory atmosphere toward women.

“If Simpson values equality, the college must make Simpson track a place for women, too,” she wrote in the article.

Brown recounted specific instances of discrimination experienced by some of her female teammates. In her mind, she was simply speaking her mind and bringing to light an issue she felt was being overlooked.

What she got was an overwhelming response, both in support and in opposition of the claims she was making, the administration was quick to respond. It issued a statement to campus, informing that it would be conducting an investigation and that such behavior won’t be tolerated at Simpson.

“I respect the school for their reaction, especially with how fast it happened,” Brown said. “I think the program is better for it and the school will be better for it.”

Meetings held with President Jay Simmons, Athletic Director Brian Niemuth and Title IX Coordinator Rich Ramos allowed the track women a space to discuss their experiences and deal with the root of their issues. Since then, Simpson has made efforts to make known the resources available to students when dealing with issues of discrimination and sexual harassment.

The changes were even noticeable during the end of last year’s track season, senior Sadie Timms said.

“I felt the track coaches made a huge effort to be there for the girls and even the guys did a lot better about cheering,” Timms said. “So I think it became a more supportive environment of everyone on the team, which was really nice to see.”

Niemuth said one track assistant coach resigned in the spring, but it is unclear whether his resignation was related to the investigation.

Before the start of the semester, Simmons issued another statement to the campus, reminding students to be active and engaged in the community and outlining how improvements are being made to Title IX procedures.

“Since the semester ended, a number of individuals have been working together to review and improve upon our existing policies including, but not limited to, our sexual misconduct policy,” Simmons said in the email. “Along with creating a better policy, we are also expanding our educational efforts to more effectively reach all members of our community.”

Though neither Brown nor Timms will be participating in track this spring, there is no animosity toward the team. Timms is graduating in December, and Brown will be student teaching in the spring, but they think things are looking up for female track athletes at Simpson.

“I just hope that everyone feels like they belong and that they feel supported and that they can make progress in their sport,” Brown said. “The environment of your team is an important piece about whether or not you feel good and that you want to be here.”

Timms said the track team is looking to add a female coach. This year, cross-country saw the addition of Jamie Busby, who may also be assisting with track.