Fallout from Dartmouth’s Title IX Error

Dartmouth’s athletics director has retired. No surprise there (photo credit: Derrick Smith).

Back in July, Dartmouth College eliminated its men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams, its men’s and women’s golf teams, and its men’s lightweight crew team. Then, at the end of January, a bit more than six months later, the school reversed the eliminations and fully reinstated all five varsity teams as though nothing ever happened. Nothing to see here, people! And why the about-face, particularly after Dartmouth’s longtime athletics director, Harry Sheehy, made very clear after the announcement of the elimination of the teams that no matter how much money these eliminated programs raised, no matter how much support they gathered, they would not be reinstated? Look no further than the litigation that a lawyer retained by members of the Dartmouth women’s swimming and women’s golf teams threatened to file against the College on the Hill.

The lawyer accused Dartmouth of being out of Title IX compliance, a federal civil rights law that prohibits sex-based discrimination at any school. At the time this lawyer sent this notice to Dartmouth, we voiced skepticism that the school would have eliminated these programs without first checking to ensure it remained in Title IX compliance. After all, there are folks at Dartmouth whose sole responsibility is to ensure the school’s athletics program remains in Title IX compliance. But, thankfully, we were wrong because — shockingly — Dartmouth really was out of Title IX compliance (although some would argue this isn’t so shocking since many schools with football programs are out of Title IX compliance)! In any case, what’s been the fallout since this dramatic about-face?

In the wake of the reinstatement of the teams, Dartmouth’s athletics director Harry Sheehy joined a Zoom call with the athletes of the impacted teams. As our readers may imagine, the AD faced quite a bit of heat during the session, including calls for his immediate resignation. As Justin Kramer reports for The Dartmouth in a piece entitled “Reinstated teams lash out at AD Harry Sheehy on ‘explosive’ Zoom call,” “Tensions boiled over between the athletics department and members of the five restored teams…Men’s swimmer Ethan Moon ’22 characterized the meeting as ‘entertaining’ and ‘explosive.’ ‘It was chaos,’ said former Dartmouth swimmer Connor LaMastra, who transferred to Northwestern University after his team was eliminated. Moon said the meeting served as ‘catharsis for the athletes.’ ‘[Sheehy] came into this call, [and] he very well knew what was about to happen,’ Moon said. ‘We were going to rip him a new one, and he couldn’t stop us. And so that’s exactly what we did.'” Oh yes they did!

From the sound of it, Dartmouth’s athletics director Harry Sheehy should have issued more of an unequivocal apology during this Zoom session. He also should have demonstrated more compassion for the impacted athletes and their families. We were particularly disturbed to hear that Sheehy said, “I’m sorry you transferred” when LaMastra asked the AD for a personal apology. We agree — that response was a slap in the face. But it seems that the impacted swimmers, golfers, and rowers have gotten the last word as not only have the teams all been reinstated but Dartmouth announced the not-so-surprising “retirement” of Sheehy today. Retirement. That’s one word for it.

On the heels of a making a decision to eliminate five varsity programs which left Dartmouth out of Title IX compliance, the school’s longtime athletics director Harry Sheehy is — unsurprisingly — out. Ding Dong.

As Dartmouth President Philip Hanlon announced in an email today, “Harry Sheehy, Dartmouth’s director of athletics and recreation, will be retiring this month after more than a decade of service to our community of scholar-athletes. As a result, I am naming Peter Roby ’79 the interim athletics director beginning February 16. He will serve through June 2022.” And with that, the AD was fully thrown under the bus. Ding dong. So long, Harry Sheehy! Go Big Green.

 
 

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