Just after it paid off millions of dollars to settle the Gibson’s Bakery case, Oberlin is back in the news again, and not in a particularly favorable way. According to the video below, and the two news stories below it (click to read), the college has started harassing and investigating its women’s lacrosse coach, Kim Russell. Why? The text just below is taken from the first news source, the Independent Women’s Forum (IWF), which made the video as well, but the New York Post gives an identical story. And the video tells pretty much all the story, so watch that first:
In a documentary IWF produced telling her story, Russell talks about loving her lacrosse student-athletes as her own children. But following an Instagram post where Russell congratulated swimming star Emma Weyant for being the “real winner” of the 500-yard freestyle at the NCAA championships in 2022 after she officially came in second behind UPenn’s Lia Thomas, one of her own lacrosse players reported Russell’s post to Oberlin’s athletic director. The report triggered a series of lengthy disciplinary meetings and a full-fledged character assassination campaign against her involving Oberlin faculty and the women’s lacrosse team.
[JAC: Lia Thomas is of course a biological male who has become a trans female and a winning swimmer when competing on women’s teams. And the disciplinary meetings were apparently recorded by coach Russell, and you can hear them in the video.]
Evidence now available to the public, the audio recordings depict the onslaught of verbal attacks Kim was met with from Oberlin administrators:
“Unfortunately, you fall into a category of people that are filled with hate in the world.”
“It’s acceptable to have your own opinions, but when they go against your college’s beliefs, it’s a problem. For your employment.”
“What Oberlin College subjected Kim Russell to for simply believing biological truths was nothing short of a modern, Maoist struggle session,” said Andrea Mew, storytelling coordinator at IWF and producer of the documentary.
Of course multiple investigation meetings constitute chilling of speech; they are punishment in themselves. As Russell says, “Every time I’ve spoken up, I’ve been silenced, which to me is the opposite of what I thought Oberlin would be.”
Apparently, Oberlin lacrosse players have drunk the Kool-Aid, as several women on the team speak up against Russell.
Now Russell was speaking as a private individual on an Instagram post, so her speech was not representing Oberlin College or its policy. Nevertheless, Oberlin College does in fact have a policy for participation of trans women on women’s teams, and it says this (I’ve bolded the relevant bits):
1. A trans male (FTM) student-athlete who has received a medical exception for treatment with testosterone for diagnosed Gender Identity Disorder or gender dysphoria and/or Transsexualism, for purposes of NCAA competition may compete on a men’s team, but is no longer eligible to compete on a women’s
team without changing that team status to a mixed team.
2. A trans female (MTF) student-athlete being treated with testosterone suppression medication for Gender Identity Disorder or gender dysphoria and/or Transsexualism, for the purposes of NCAA competition may continue to compete on a men’s team but may not compete on a women’s team without changing it to a mixed team status until completing one calendar year of testosterone suppression
Any transgender student-athlete who is not taking hormone treatment related to gender transition may participate in sex-separated sports activities in accordance with his or her assigned birth gender.
• A trans male (FTM) student-athlete who is not taking testosterone related to gender transition may participate on a men’s or women’s team.
• A trans female (MTF) transgender student-athlete who is not taking hormone treatments related to gender transition may not compete on a women’s team.
According to this, trans females can’t compete on women’s teams unless they are taking hormone treatments, and, even in that case the womenh’s team has to be changed to a “mixed team,” which doesn’t seem to be the case for women’s lacrosse at Oberlin. It’s conceivable that although Russell was speaking as a private individual and has the right to free speech, if there were trans women on the team her sentiments could be interpreted as invalidating the participation of those trans women, creating a hostile “athletics environment”. And that may violate Oberlin’s policy to the extent that they could discipline her.
What’s not clear in this policy is whether, if all trans-women on the lacrosse team have completed a year of testosterone suppression, the team can now revert to a women’s team. In that case, Russell is indeed attacking members of the team she coaches. Oberlin needs to rewrite #2 above to clarify this.
But given that there is no “mixed lacrosse team” at Oberlin, and no sign that it was once a “mixed team” that has reverted to a “women’s team”, I can’t see Russell violating University policy in any way with her Instagram post, and therefore she didn’t deserve the pile-on she got from Oberlin officials. Read more about this in the two articles below.
From the Independent Women’s Forum (click to read):
As I’ve written before, given the scientific data that men who have completed male puberty retain body-related athletic advantages over women for years, even if they’re taking hormone treatment, such trans women shouldn’t be allowed to compete in athletics against biological women. And it almost goes without saying that it’s unfair for biological men who identify as women but haven’t been medically treated to compete against biological women.
What’s not clear here is whether Russell violated Oberlin policy. My feeling is that she didn’t, since there is no “mixed” lacrosse team at her college, and she was speaking as a private individual. Still, although I agree with her sentiments, given her position as coach, I wouldn’t have put up that Instagram post
And it’s unconscionable for Oberlin officials to investigate and discipline Russell without clear charges of what exact policy she’s supposed to be violating. It appears that she was persecuted for violating the “college’s beliefs,” but colleges shouldn’t have “beliefs” on this issue; they should have policies. And although they do, the policies are unclear.
My own view is that Oberlin should either have three teams: men’s, women’s (reserved for biological women) and mixed; or, alternatively, trans women should be allowed to compete on the men’s team, which should then be designated as “open”.
From the New York Post (click to read):
h/t: Jez, Mark