Peter Franchot’s defamatory comment about Towson University President Maravene Loeschke (“Franchot: State funding of Towson baseball a ‘bad idea’”, Eye on Annapolis, April 3) is reprehensible. Calling Dr. Loeschke a liar in connection with her decision to discontinue two sports programs at Towson is patently unfair and manifestly untrue.
Putting the matter in the simplest of terms, President Loeschke faced three long-term challenges with regard to the viability of Towson University’s Intercollegiate Athletics Program. She needed to simultaneously address the financial sustainability of the athletics budget, the overall competitiveness of the athletics program, and the compliance of the program with the gender equity requirements stipulated under federal law, known as Title IX. This law requires equality of opportunity for females, as well as males, in all higher education programs and activities. Incomprehensibly, Mr. Franchot cites this aspect of President Loeschke’s decision as the basis for his intemperate and injurious comment. Had the Comptroller taken the time to explore the facts, he might have avoided the embarrassment he has brought upon himself and his office.
With regard to Title IX compliance at Towson, during Towson’s surge of enrollment growth under President Robert Caret, the university recognized it was experiencing the national trend of more females than males attending college, and the need to address female opportunities in athletics. Leading Title IX external experts brought to the university in 2011 reaffirmed this necessity. The numbers tell part of the story. The Towson student body is 61 percent female but only 52 percent of its student athletes are female. Title IX requires that a mismatch of this magnitude be addressed. Failure to be in Title IX compliance would pose severe reputational and fiscal consequences for the institution.
President Loeschke called for a transparent and inclusive process while these challenges were addressed. There were open forums, solicitation of comments, a website created specifically for feedback on this issue, and regular updates. After recommendations from athletics leadership and the review of an independent task force, final recommendations were made. These recommendations were all based solely on fact and all were put forward with the overarching goal of protecting and enhancing the educational, athletic, and cultural experience of Towson’s students, maintaining the fiscal integrity of the athletics program and adhering to all state and federal mandates, including Title IX. This was a courageous but wrenching decision for President Loeschke, which was scrutinized and endorsed by the Board of Regents Workgroup on Intercollegiate Athletics (chaired by Regent Tom McMillen) before her decision was announced.
One of the traditions of public policy deliberations in Maryland that sets it apart from many other states has always been our ability to disagree without being disagreeable. Mr. Franchot’s confusion on the issues surrounding President Loeschke’s decision, and Title IX requirements in particular, which resulted in his erroneous comment, has violated this tradition and, most of all, inappropriately defamed President Loeschke, an honorable public servant of high integrity.
William E. “Brit” Kirwan
University System of Maryland