The very first thing that Dr. Ellen Staurowsky did upon entering the lecture hall in ITE for her discussion on equity in sports this Valentine’s Day evening was to get to know everyone. She gracefully walked into the room and shook the hands of those around her, student and organizer alike, taking a piece of information about them with her as she moved on. Staurowsky asked about majors, names, why each of attendant was there and repeatedly expressed how honored she was to be there.
Michael Mallery, a graduate student in learning, leadership and educational policy with a concentration in sports management was one of many who were as happy for Staurowsky to be there. He said Staurowsky was “Amazing and very well known in the field for her work.”
Upon arrival, Staurowsky seemed very gentle and soft spoken. But, when she prepared to answer the first question, there was a fierce passion. She was asked by one of the hosts what stirred her interest in the sex discrimination law Title IX. She said that growing up, as she was heading off to college, Title IX was just coming into existence and it shocked her to find that there were women in sports who did not have the same opportunities as their male counterparts.
The topic most discussed was that of the exploitation of student-athletes by universities and the sports industry. Staurowsky expressed that she believes “student-athlete is a false term.” Rather, she thinks that “student-worker” is a more accurate term and confirms that she is living proof of one.
Staurowsky is employed at Drexel University and is currently pursuing a master’s degree. She argues that in the same way student workers who happen to be athletes should receive compensation of some sort, too. Institutions of higher learning and the sports industry have long taken advantage of their student-athletes by routinely recruiting athletes right out of high school and offering them a “free” education in return for their work on the sports teams.
This tradeoff hardly seems fair considering this is a multibillion dollar industry for which student-athletes provide the backbone. Waiving off a roughly $70,000 yearly fee in return for the time and effort that these students put in and the losses they endure hardly seems comparable to the hefty flow of cash they bring to their schools and eventually the sports industry. This is similar to the conversation that was held on the day of metanoia on campus last semester during which we heard from athletes firsthand.
Rebecca Day, an eighth-semester political science and sports management major raised the question of “how a student athlete would be compensated for their work” in the framework of a society “where women already get paid less than men in the same field.”
Candidly, Staurowsky said that she didn’t really know how that would be distributed, just that the change needed to be made. She also said that one of the biggest obstacles stopping us from moving forward is that “we have a system that makes threats but doesn’t follow through.” This means that there are institutions that don’t follow Title IX that should face legal consequences, but haven’t.
Another part of the problem is that those who could affect the most change in the situation aren’t even attempting to be a part of the conversation. A good amount of those in attendance were students from a single class. Staurowsky says that she believes the ones who will herald in this change in the industry is the generation to which those students belong to. One of the ways they are going to make these changes is by appealing to those in power, the people who refuse to acknowledge that conversations like these need to happen.
For improvement in the system and more effective advocacy, Staurowsky recommends educating ourselves on what the rules are, spreading the word through the power of the press and holding those in power accountable for the action that they are not taking and injustices not being addressed. She does research that helps support the activism by providing insight with statistics.
Kanthalina Andreus is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.