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Division III moves to gender-neutral language

Management Council also weighs in on recent Skyline Conference letter and proposal

At its meeting Wednesday at the NCAA Convention in Orlando, Florida, the Division III Management Council approved a recommendation from the Division III Student-Athlete Advisory Committee that will require all current and future Division III policies, procedures and communications to be written — or rewritten — to contain only gender-neutral language. NCAA Photos

Division III’s policies, procedures and formal correspondence will now be gender neutral, making it the first NCAA division to adopt that policy. 

At its meeting Wednesday at the NCAA Convention in Orlando, Florida, the Division III Management Council approved a recommendation from the Division III Student-Athlete Advisory Committee that will require all current and future Division III policies, procedures and communications to be written — or rewritten — to contain only gender-neutral language. The change mirrors the approach taken by a number of Division III institutions with their own formal documentation, with several moving away from gender-binary terminology. SAAC brought the proposal forward to further reinforce the division’s commitment to inclusivity.

“The reality is that we want to support all student-athletes, regardless of gender or other categorizations,” said Kate Roy, Management Council vice chair and North Atlantic Conference associate commissioner. “They’re all student-athletes. It’s particularly gratifying that this came to us from the SAAC leadership. The student-athletes are so aware of what their peers need in order to feel included and welcomed. We’re proud to support this important initiative.”

The change applies to Division III-specific reports, policies and procedures, resources, forms and applications. It requires documents to no longer include pronouns like “he” and “she,” instead relying on more general pronouns like “they.” The changes also steer official Division III documents away from relying on other gender-specific terms —“chair” instead of “chairman,” for instance, or “partner” instead of “boyfriend” or “girlfriend.” The new policy is effective immediately, though the Division III Presidents Council will have an opportunity to review the recommendation at its meeting Thursday.

Response to Skyline Conference

In December, on behalf of the Skyline Conference, College of Mount Saint Vincent President Charles Flynn reached out to all Division III presidents asking that the current form of governance in Division III be restructured.

The letter and attached proposal stated that the conference’s intent was to “delineate and define NCAA Division III athletics as separate and apart from NCAA Division I and II by adopting a process of certification for Division III membership similar to that used for academic accreditation.” The letter characterized the current Division III governance system as “broken,” charging Division III commissioners with crafting a plan to fix it.

The Management Council discussed the letter and proposal and reached consensus in opposing the claims made in the letter, citing a lack of evidence of the issues it outlined and a preponderance of evidence — membership survey results, for instance — that contradict it.

Given their opposition, the Management Council members did not recommend any relevant legislative concepts for the governance structure to consider, but they encouraged the Skyline Conference to work with NCAA staff to craft membership-sponsored legislation to address the issues outlined in the letter. The Presidents Council will discuss the Management Council’s reaction as well as plans to release a formal response to the letter and proposal at its meeting Thursday.

Funding source for DIII University officially approved 

The Management Council also approved a recommendation from the Strategic Planning and Finance Committee to transfer $30,000 from the division’s $104,000 Injury Surveillance Program budget to fund Division III University, a new online learning management system for head coaches and athletics administrators that formally launched last week.

Management Council members bid farewell

The meeting was the last for several Management Council members, whose terms have expired. They include:

  • Shantey Hill-Hanna, outgoing Management Council chair and St. Joseph’s (Long Island) vice president for athletics and campus services.
  • Maddie Burns, Randolph-Macon soccer student-athlete (Burns is leaving the Management Council to serve as chair of Division III SAAC.)
  • Sean Cain, former Adrian soccer student-athlete.
  • Gail Cummings-Danson, Skidmore athletics director.
  • Bobby Davis, Scranton vice president for student life.
  • Chris Kimball, Cal Lutheran president.
  • Karen Tompson-Wolfe, Westminster (Missouri) faculty athletics representative.