Roanoke College issued a statement last week regarding in inclusion of transgender athletes on its athletics teams.
In the statement, it said its leadership had been made aware at the start of the fall semester of a male-to-female transgender student who had requested permission to swim with the women’s team. The statement added that the student had competed on the men’s swim team as a first-year student, then took a year off from competition before returning to the sport this season.
“Because Roanoke College is committed to the success and well-being of every student, and because this was the first time Roanoke College had encountered this situation, the administration launched a process to help inform our decision on transgender student-athlete participation in all sports at the college. Our process included analysis of the NCAA policy on transgender student participation in athletics, which states: “Like the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, the updated NCAA policy calls for transgender student-athlete participation for each sport to be determined by the policy for the national governing body of that sport.” However, the NCAA also opted for a multi-year phase-in process to the above policy, which has created confusing and contradictory guidance for schools to navigate – particularly since the NCAA has already extended the phase-in process. This confusion puts student-athletes, coaches and college leaders in a difficult and uncertain position,” the college said.
The Roanoke College Board of Trustees scheduled a meeting for Oct. 3, to discuss the college’s policy and future stance. Prior to that meeting, the college said the student withdrew her request for participation on the women’s swim team. With a strong desire to cement the school’s approach to similar requests in the future, the board convened on Oct. 3 as planned and voted to formally adopt the NCAA policy; however, the college said it will forgo the phase-in process. This means Roanoke College will defer to the policy of the national governing body of each sport regarding student-athlete participation eligibility.
“In making this decision, the focus of senior administration and the board of trustees was on maintaining fairness in competition and protecting the integrity of all athletics at Roanoke College,” said Roanoke College President Frank Shushok Jr. “We remain committed to supporting our LGBTQ+ community and our student-athletes, all of whom are valued members of our vibrant community.”
In a press conference at the Hotel Roanoke and Conference Center last week, members of the women’s swim team shared their thoughts on the situation. “Common sense should have prevented us from having to stand here in front of you today. Instead of being silent, we are courageously sharing our story,” Lily Mullens, a junior on the team, said. Riley Gaines, a former college swimmer and outspoken campaigner against trans women competing in women’s sports, also spoke.
-The Salem Times-Register