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The Scarlet

The student newspaper of Clark University

The Scarlet

The student newspaper of Clark University

The Scarlet

Inequalities on Full Display: Cougar Challenge 2023

Cougars Logo. Photo Courtesy of Clark Athletics

Now in its fifth year, the “Cougar Challenge” – a fundraiser for Clark Athletics – provides hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding for Clark’s sports teams. And across the board, the men’s sports teams have earned much more in donations than the women’s sports teams. 

Donations are necessary for the university’s athletics, given the program’s small size and placement in Division III of the NCAA. Clark student-athletes often have to buy their own items, such as equipment or team clothing. 

The fundraiser is managed by both The Clark Fund and the Athletics Department, lasting two days. This year’s goal was to raise $150,000. An anonymous donor promised to contribute an additional $100,000 if that goal was met. Starting Oct. 18 at noon and ending 48 hours later, donors to the fundraiser can choose which team they want to contribute to. Each team has a different donation goal set at the start of the Cougar Challenge. 

Due to the donation goal system, some teams surpassed their goal while others missed even hitting 65 percent. The baseball team, for example, had over $33,800 donated, while softball received just $7,500. Men’s Soccer brought in $19,800, while the women’s team had about $15,000 donated. Both teams exceeded their goals, but the donations probably don’t reflect the teams’ performance: the women’s soccer team has an overall record of 8-3-4, while the men’s team is 3-9-3 this season. 

This gender disparity can be seen across the board in donations. In every sport, the men’s team received more donations than the women’s team. Why is the donation system set up like this? The Cougar Challenge in its current form merely encourages the success of men’s teams over the women’s teams here at Clark. This is not to say that every team does not appreciate any donation they get, but why is there such a clear-cut difference in the donations? 

The final donation total added up to $325,173 with 1,395 donors – 216% of the Challenge’s original goal, unlocking that additional $100,000. Despite the fact that the goal was smashed – raising almost $8,000 more than last year’s Challenge – five of the fifteen teams did not meet their individual fundraising goals. All five are women’s teams. While Title IX does not require that equal dollars must be spent on men’s and women’s sports teams, it does say that male and female athletes must receive both equitable treatment and benefits. Gender equity is frequently brought up on campus as an important issue, and the results from the Cougar Challenge show just how much work is left to do. 

Gender disparities in varsity athletics are visible across campus, but the Cougar Challenge illustrates the problem in dollars and cents. Why set up the fundraiser this way, where donors can pick and choose the team they wish to contribute to? It only encourages favoritism of one team over another. And it just so happens that this system continually funnels more funding to the men’s teams over the women’s teams. The differences in some cases were stark: though the baseball and softball seasons won’t start until the spring, the baseball team earned around $26,300 more than the softball team this year. Men’s basketball raked in over $27,000, while the women’s squad received just $11,578 in contributions.

Why does Clark continually encourage the success of men’s sports teams over women’s teams – and when is it time for a change? The Cougar Challenge has been happening for five years now. Next year, why not accept only general donations, or at least to each sport, and not each team?

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