Pregnancy listed as a factor for denying scholarship

Cassandra Harding was afraid of losing her scholarship because of a contract she was required to sign for the Memphis track team. This contract, in clear violation of Title IX stated that pregnancy is listed among incidents that would result in “immediate dismissal and non-renewal of scholarship.” And so, when Harding was found to be pregnant, the Memphis track coaches chose not to renew her scholarship the following year.

And this is neither an unusual case of pregnancy discrimination, nor infrequent in the United States.

Following report from Julie Foudy sheds more light.

“An abortion was not something I had wanted to do. I would have liked to have been able to keep my career, my scholarship, still be at Clemson and have my child.” – Clemson student-athlete

“I just was like, ‘I do not want to lose my scholarship, I don’t want to go back home and work at McDonald’s or work at Jack in the Box or something. I need my education. I need this college degree to have a better life.’” — Cassandra Harding, triple jumper who became pregnant, and feared for her scholarship because of the University of Memphis team policy “She basically let me know that even if I didn’t play, she would still give me my scholarship, and gave me everything as though I was still playing for her that year. It wasn’t about the basketball, it was about me as a person.” — Efueko Osagie-Landry, Marquette basketball player who became pregnant before her senior year, and despite having no policy regarding student-athletes becoming pregnant, received support from Coach Terri Mitchell.

“If we don’t have a pregnancy policy in an institution which clearly protects an athlete’s scholarship, that’s what is the default. That’s (an abortion) what athletes are motivated to do, to conceal it, to seek a quick fix to try to avoid consequences, avoid scholarship consequences. I found that the NCAA bylaws were very unclear and in some cases they conflicted with each other and certainly they didn’t give me the answer that we needed about what do we do for a pregnant athlete?” — Dr. Beth Sorensen, author of Wright State University’s pregnancy policy, who has been raising awareness about this issue since 2003

“I talked with my academic advisor. She was just like, ‘You know that’s going to be hard?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah.’ And she was just like, ‘You know, everything that you got…gone. Just think about your options. You know coach isn’t going to give you back your scholarship just like that. If she finds out, and if you decide to keep it, that’s gone.’” — Clemson student-athlete who discovered she was pregnant, and turned to her academic advisor for advice

“Me and my boyfriend we were going to try to terminate (the pregnancy), but when we went in, it was too late. I just started crying. And I lost my scholarship. I let my teammates down. I let my coach down. I let my parents down.” — Cassandra Harding, who feared losing her scholarship because of a contract she was required to sign each preseason for the Memphis track team that listed pregnancy among incidents that would result in “immediate dismissal and non-renewal of scholarship.” When the Memphis track coaches found out Harding was pregnant, they chose not to renew her scholarship the following year.

“It’s a blatant violation of Title IX. It is unquestionably a violation of Title IX. It clearly says that an outright exclusion based on pregnancy is illegal and there’s no question about that.” — Deborah Brake, Associate Professor of Law at the University of Pittsburgh, who specializes in gender discrimination.