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Title IX controversy: “The Lost Haven of Sharon Taylor”

Joanna Harlow
Opinion Editor
ejh1498@lhup.edu
3379714

linkedin.com

Starting in 2006, an ugly gender war was being waged at Lock Haven University which inverted Title IX controversies as several male coaches argued that women in Lock Haven athletics were being treated better than the male teams. Joseph Patrick Guerriero, an assistant professor in the academic and counseling department, filed a suit against the university in 2006 because he believed there was a sexually hostile environment at the university. The university eventually settled the suit for $47,500 and Guerriero moved to the athletic department.

Sharon Taylor, acclaimed athletics director for more than twenty years was the center of the controversy as critics accused her of favoring women athletes over male teams. In a biting statement, former LHU athletics director Patrick Guerriero told USA Today “Oh, it’s worse than that. Sharon hates men.”Amidst seven lawsuits, former athletics director Taylor was reassigned.

Taylor was appointed to the position in 1988 after earning the title of winningest coach in LHU history as field hockey coach. According to the university website, Taylor guided the Haven to six national championships, seven PSAC titles and seven additional national championship or semi-final appearances.

Author Terry C. Walters has recently published a book covering Taylor’s story.   Walters told the Eagle Eye that the first challenge in writing the story was putting it into a larger context. Title IX lawsuits have been happening all over the country since it was signed into law in 1972, but the lawsuits at LHU saw a reversal of most of these cases. “Ultimately, Sharon Taylor lost her career because certain individuals felt that her success in developing a strong program for women’s athletics came at the expense of the men’s programs. Following her “reassignment,” Ms. Taylor filed a Title IX retaliation lawsuit and settled out of court with LHU” said Walters. The author says that the book is “steeped in redemption” and that the media was merciless is covering Taylor’s story.

LHU Front CoverWhen asked if he believed that progress had been made he replied  “I believe so, although progress is slow and bumpy. Female athletics directors are becoming more prevalent, particularly in the Division I schools.  On the other hand, almost every month another school adds its name to the roll call of Title IX defendants who end up shelling out millions of dollars in damages.”

Walters says that his overall takeaway is this: “Sharon Taylor brought a great deal of very positive publicity to LHU, the many state and national championships, the three Dixon Trophies, and frequent national and international kudos for her advocacy for women’s sports.  Some universities would place a statue or name a facility for her. It’s not too late to recognize her many contributions to Lock Haven, starting with granting her Emerita status, an honor that was undeniably earned,  but cruelly denied her in recent years. Many wounds could be healed with this simple act.”

The Eagle Eye also talked with Taylor who said the book “does a remarkable job of pulling things together. It taught me about similar problems at other universities too, but it’s not a feel good book; it’s very realistic.” When asked about how she felt LHU falls in the scheme of things, Taylor said “It’s just a shame that nearly 45 years after the passing of Title IX, that we haven’t gotten passed the inbred fear of women getting into male dominated fields. It’s not just collegiate sports.  Jimmy Carter told us back in 1947 that life isn’t fair- and I guess he was right.” Taylor also told the Eagle Eye that Lock Haven will always be her alma mater, and that she’ll never lose her appreciation for the good experiences she had here.

A book signing for “Sharon Taylor’s Lost Haven” will be held at Ross Library on Sat, April 30 from 2-4 p.m.

 

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