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Leveling the playing field: Equal Pay for Equal Play one year later

While in her third club hockey season at Oswego State, Kim Hirsch suffered a concussion during a game against Buffalo.

The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission says the helmet the athlete is playing in at the time of an injury should be replaced.

Hirsch didn’t get a new helmet.

The team didn’t have the money to buy her one.

“I’ve actually played one more year in the helmet I got the concussion in last year,” Oswego State women’s club hockey team president Hirsch said. “All because we couldn’t afford to replace it.”

During the 2017-2018 academic year, the Student Association at Oswego State allotted $1.7 million to be distributed to 208 clubs. Yet, when it came to club sports, the women’s teams were found to be receiving 65% less funding than that of their male counterparts.

“We found this disparity was (either) the result of malpractice, or may have been done unintentionally by the Student Association and it’s a result of years of their way of budgeting,” then Oswego State Student Association Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer Omar van Reenen said.

When looking deeper into each women’s club sport, the ice hockey team showed the second biggest disparity regarding their budget compared to their male counterparts. While the men’s team had a budget of $37,500 for the 2017-2018 season, the women’s team was limited to $7,200. That is a 80.8% difference between their respective budgets.

Graphic made by Mikayla Green

“It really feels equally as bad when the school is reflecting that same gender preference towards males playing hockey,” Hirsch said.

With the lack of funding, the women’s team had been unable to join a league since Hirsch’s freshman year or even afford buses to travel to games. Instead, some of the seniors and upperclassmen would drive around the state, adding up miles on their own cars.

“It definitely affected how we played the game,” Hirsch said. “When you’re driving three to four hours to a game and then you have to start playing, it takes a toll on you.”

In an effort to raise more money, the team would do fundraisers at places such as Fajita Grill while also knocking on doors to ask for bottle and can collections. However, it was to little avail.

“The fundraisers can only bring in so much, maybe around a few hundred dollars,” Hirsch said. “It’s not enough to pay for a sport like hockey.”

To the satisfaction of women athletes such as Hirsch, the 2018-2019 academic year marked a turning point for women’s club sports teams at Oswego State. Instead of continuing with uneven budgeting, the Student Association gave each club sport with both a men’s and women’s team the same budget dollar for dollar.

“This allowed us to use that year as a transition buffer period to find out how we can model our budgeting so that we can give each team an equal opportunity,” van Reenen said.

With the dollar for dollar budget in effect, both the men’s and women’s club hockey teams received $29,399. The men’s club team, however, lost $8,101 from the previous year’s budget and $19,601 less than what they requested for 2018-2019.

Due to the cut in funding, the men’s club hockey team had to charge larger out of pocket dues from both returners and newcomers. In 2017-2018, dues had been between $700-$800 for returners and newcomers. This past season, it skyrocketed to $1,300 for returners and $1,700 for newcomers.

“It has been a burden on our players especially our newcomers,” Oswego State men’s club hockey treasurer Alex Gallose said. “It helps deter them from actually playing.”

Although both the men’s and women’s club hockey teams play within the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA), Gallose says the men’s team needs a $50,000 budget. This is due to having stricter guidelines to follow in their league whereas the women’s league is more lenient.

“It’s just anything the league can deem as unprofessional or not in unison that we could be fined per game for,” Gallose said. “It keeps our costs up because we have to make sure we have every little thing right.”

That includes all of the team’s players wearing matching outfits before they even enter the rink. If they are not all in tracksuits or suit and tie, the team is fined $50 each game they do not comply.

While the men’s club team remains concerned about their budget, they had been hoping to see the day when the women’s team had their funding increase.

“We’ve always been on their side that they needed a bigger budget because they were only getting around $7,000,” Gallose said. “That’s not enough for them to function. We want them to have higher budgets and hope they can keep it in the future.”

This past season, the women’s club team had the opportunity to play Navy on October 14, 2018. (photo provided by Kim Hirsch)

With the women’s club team receiving a $22,199 increase in funding for 2018-2019, they were able to join a Division II league through ACHA. This marked their first time playing in a league since Hirsch’s freshman season.

“It was great for me during my senior year to be part of a league again and play teams outside of the upstate New York area,” Hirsch said. “We were able to travel all throughout Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware playing teams like the Naval Academy and the University of Delaware.”

Unlike prior seasons, the team was able to afford buses and hotels for those trips, as a large chunk of their funding was devoted to travel.

While not all of the team’s needs could be addressed within this past season’s budget alone, the women were able to hold a special event for the first time.

“We were able to afford to do an alumni game so we asked our old alumni to come back and we hosted them for that,” Hirsch said.

Next year, a new zero-based budgeting system will go into effect resulting in the women’s team receiving an additional $4,505 in their funding. With that money, the team will be able to replace equipment that has been passed down several years.

“My gloves that I use were actually used when I got them and now since they’ve been used for four years by me, they’re not in the best shape,” Hirsch said. “They smell, they have a hole in them. It’s stuff like that where we just can’t pass that equipment down to the new girls anymore.”

The Student Association’s zero-based budgeting system allows each budget to be built around what teams need to be competitive. This is done by starting each club team’s budget at a “zero-base” every year and having the teams request and justify any funds they wish to receive on a budget request form.

Once it is received by the Budget Council and Campus Life, they will oversee and analyze that team’s request for their needs and costs while comparing it to their counterpart. By doing this, it has eliminated the legacy funding that held back teams from growing and becoming competitive.

With the increase in funding, the women’s club team was able to travel to games in buses. (photo provided by Kim Hirsch)

“It’s compared to the opposite team and what they are asking for so we can make sure that it’s reasonable and that they are both funded with an equal opportunity,” van Reenen said.

One year after Oswego State put the Equal Pay for Equal Play movement into motion, Hirsch says it was never about bringing the men’s club hockey team’s budget down.

“It’s about everyone being at the same level and having the same opportunity,” Hirsch said.

The reaction evoked from Hirsch is one of the main reasons the movement was enacted by van Reenen and the rest of Oswego State’s Student Association.

“Equal pay was saying that it’s good that the men’s club sports teams are able to go to however many games or conferences and have all the equipment they need to play the game and play it safely,” van Reenen said. “But so should the women.”

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