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WARA’s abolition undermines equity

What do you call an active student group currently listed on the “Inactive Organizations” Wooster website? The Women’s Athletic and Recreation Association (WARA). Since early September of 2018, WARA has been spun into limbo, an active student organization effectively without a home or funding. If that sounds confusing, it’s probably because it is. 

Up until September, WARA functioned under the Athletic Department. That was until our executive board was informed by our Athletic Department administration that WARA would no longer be considered an organization under the department. We were told that WARA was “on an island” at the College. WARA’s funds were frozen and our main source of income, the concession stand at the basketball games, was taken over by the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC). As both a student and member of WARA’s executive board, it felt disappointing and shocking to find out we were suddenly inactive. In our 100 years of being an active student group on campus, we were not aware there were islands in Wooster, Ohio. 

Established in 1918, WARA played a pivotal role in the establishment of women’s club and varsity sports on campus. In 1936, WARA supported the development of women’s club sports and the women’s varsity sports thereafter. In 1971, WARA paid for the women’s tennis team’s first season. Today, WARA stands on the shoulders of many hardworking female athletes throughout the past century, a truly humbling history. 

For the past nine months, we have functioned as a student organization: you may have seen us featured on the art wall for National Girls and Women in Sports Week, been a recipient of the “athlete of the month” honor, noticed us during our meetings in the Scot Center lobby or attended a panel we hosted with Wooster faculty and staff talking about their experiences as former student-athletes. 

However, these activities have been challenging. Our funds were frozen at the beginning of the year, and we have not been able to access those funds for the 2018-2019 school year. We managed to skim by this year, creatively planning events that didn’t require money. When events did cost money, our members and advisor funded the events with their own money without promise of reimbursement. 

We are in the process of chartering but do not know when we may be approved. It has often felt like WARA is treading in uncharted waters, and we aren’t sure what the best decision is for our student organization. We’ve also been informed by student activities that parts of WARA’s activities violate Title IX. Out of all the hurdles we’ve faced this year, issues with Title IX were a tad ironic. WARA as a student group functions to establish equity in our athletic department and it is a hard pill to swallow that we violate a law made with the purpose of establishing equity between men and women. The ambivalence this sitatuation has been treated with — the decision to abolish WARA, how we were informed about that decision and the hurdles we must get over to re-establish as a student organization -— is incredibly discouraging. 

For me, this situation begs the question: what message does this decision send to our female student body about how The College of Wooster prioritizes women’s equity?

I hope that in sharing WARA’s story, the dialogue surrounding both the intentionality and consequences of decisions made by our administration and athletic department may continue. 

Our mission is to support, advocate for and celebrate female athletes and all student-athletes, but we cannot achieve the success we aspire to without first finding a home here at Wooster. I look forward to what WARA will accomplish as we reconvene in the fall and celebrate our 100 year anniversary. Thank you to the many who have contributed to making this year great for WARA and to the past century of women who have shaped the community of Wooster we live in today.

Morgan Mooty, a Contributing Writer for the Voice, can be reached for comment at MMooty20@wooster.edu.

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