From the time she was young, Brandeis University Director of Athletics and University Athletic Association (UAA) Vice President for Equity and Inclusion Lauren Haynie loved to be a part of athletics, or at least around athletics. "I realized very early on that I was going to be better off the field than on it, even though I loved, and continue to love, competition of all kinds," she quipped. "I do vividly remember, as someone who watched a lot of sports on television, that there were very few opportunities to watch women play. I remember watching much of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship tournament, but only being able to watch the final for the women’s tournament."
The women’s basketball semifinals were not televised live until 1991. This was 16 years after the first nationally televised women’s basketball game in the U.S. when Immaculata University defeated host University of Maryland, 80-48, on Jan. 26, 1975. While the University of Oregon won the first men’s NCAA basketball championship in 1939, Louisiana Tech won the first NCAA women’s basketball title in 1982.
Athletic Training Career
Haynie had an aptitude for math and science in high school, but a course she took as a senior set her on a course that would mark her career. "As much as I enjoyed math and science, I had no idea what I wanted to study in college. My senior year in high school, I took an introductory sports medicine class and suddenly, everything seemed to click," she recalled. "I really enjoyed the subject matter, but more importantly, I enjoyed being around the teams and the excitement of running on the field to help people."
Although her high school athletic trainer encouraged her to pursue athletic training as a profession, she still had her mind set on math. "I enjoyed the sports medicine class as a senior, but I still went to Penn State fully intending to study math. While I could do the work my first semester there, I realized it was not as much fun as being around student-athletes and coaches," she described. "I was fortunate enough to be assigned a roommate who became the manager for the women’s basketball team, and she mentioned that all of the athletic training students were around the team. My second semester, I was able to take the college-level introductory athletic training class. From then on, I knew that it was the career path that I really wanted to follow."
After earning her first master’s degree from Old Dominion University in 2002, Haynie served as the head athletic trainer at Lane College in Jackson, Tennessee. In her two years at Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts, and seven years at Catholic University in Washington, D.C. she was an assistant athletic director for sports medicine in addition to her athletic training duties. "After being a head athletic trainer and interfacing with quite a few offices around campus, I started to realize that while you see student-athletes pursuing something they are passionate about in your athletic facilities, their lives on college campuses extend far beyond their athletic pursuits," she explained. "I started to think that I wanted to broaden my reach to a much bigger group of student-athletes, not just the ones who were injured and sought treatment in the athletic training room."
Administration and Social Justice
Haynie spent nearly three years as a special assistant to the athletic director at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where among her many duties she worked with a colleague to coordinate the varsity athletics student-athlete wellbeing program for the school’s 33 varsity programs.
Prior to taking over the athletic director position at Brandeis, she spent two years at Wellesley College as the Senior Associate Director of Athletics. "The intersection of student-athlete mental health and physical health made it clear to me that students need advocates in many different areas of campus. Student-athletes challenge us to be better every day, and I draw my drive and inspiration from them," she commented. "They are passionate about social justice and social change on campus and in the broader community."
Brandeis has developed an international reputation for its involvement in a wide range of social justice initiatives through its Social Justice and Social Policy Program. This is consistent with what Haynie has seen since she arrived on campus. "What I hear most frequently from our student-athletes at Brandeis is the importance of equity and that all of our students, regardless of race, gender identity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, etc. deserve opportunities and resources to pursue their sports to the fullest," she articulated.
Transgender Student-Athletes and Title IX
Last June, U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona and the Department of Education announced that Title IX protects gay and transgender students at school, which is at odds with 12 states who have passed laws banning transgender girls and women from participating in girls and women’s sports.
The issue became a national story recently when University of Pennsylvania transgender swimmer Lia Thomas captured the 500-yard women’s freestyle at the NCAA Division I Swimming & Diving Championships.
Brandeis recently teamed with Athlete Ally to host a live screening of "A Fish Bowl Conversation With Transgender NCAA Athletes," with a panel that included Judges’ fencer Alexander Wicken. "Transgender inclusion for our department begins by thinking about the experience of our current student-athletes and thinking about ways to make the experiences of future student-athletes as inclusive as possible," Haynie expressed. "When a student approached our SWA (Senior Woman Administrator) and me about transitioning from one roster to another, we not only thought about how we could best support this particular student, but what we could be doing to signal to all of our other student-athletes that the department, and more broadly, the university, would do everything in our power to live up to our founding values related to social justice."
In June of 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity. The Department of Education is finalizing a draft expected to be published this month with clarity around Title IX’s anti-discrimination rules with regard to sexual orientation and gender identity.
Haynie with Brandeis Vice President Raymond Ou
"In a world which demonizes transgender people, we want to be a place that truly signals that not only are you accepted, but that you are welcomed and treasured here," Haynie affirmed. "We see no distinction in our support and advocacy for our transgender student-athletes and with Title IX. When we see inequality, it is our job as administrators, but more importantly as people, to consistently push for the change we want to see."
Haynie is encouraged by the changes she has seen over time, but she believes there is still a lot of work to be done. "There is certainly more visibility for girls and women in sports, but as a society, we can do so much more to showcase the strength and skill of everyone who participates in sports through representation and media attention," she suggested. "We also know that women will disproportionately take on caregiving roles, so the more we can support working parents and those who are caregivers to elderly parents, the more we can keep women in sports. Most importantly, intuitionally, we must commit financial and human resources to women’s sports. Additional people and facilities certainly make a good experience into a truly excellent and equitable one."