Northeastern receives low Athlete Equality Index score, aims for change

Northeastern+Men%27s+Basketball+team

Jordan Baron

Northeastern Men’s Basketball team

Sarah Barber, news staff

On April 1, Athlete Ally released its set of Athlete Equality Index, or AEI, scores, a system that rates Division 1 colleges around the country on its resources for and inclusion of LGBTQ+ student athletes. Northeastern University received a score of 40 out of 100, the fourth lowest in the Colonial Athletic Association.  

Athlete Ally’s AEI scores are calculated through a set of eight different criteria: nondiscrimination policy, transgender inclusion policy, sexual harassment policy, fan code of conduct, annual partnership or collaboration, LGBTQ+ educational resources, pro-LGBTQ+ trainings for staff and pro-LGBTQ+ trainings for athletes. 

Sam Winemiller, an AEI research fellow with Athlete Ally, described why Northeastern received such a low score.

“We talked to Northeastern last in February to try to give them an opportunity to work on some of the stuff on the website. But there might be other things, like we’re not sure if Northeastern has a relationship with their LGBTQ+ center, for example, if there is one on campus. And you know, if so, we would encourage that as a way to continue to support LGBTQ+ athletes,” Winemiller said. 

Winemiller said a lot of schools have these kinds of resources and policies in place for its student athletes and athletic staff but don’t publicize them, which was the case for Northeastern. Public evidence of policies and resources are essential to cultivating an inclusive and accepting athletic program, which is why Athlete Ally utilizes these scores. 

“We look for resources that are provided through the athletics website, and  then, we also look for evidence of trainings that are offered to staff and students about LGBTQ+ inclusion. What we’re looking for is publicly available evidence of these policies and practices in place, which we think are an important baseline for an inclusive culture,” Winemiller said. 

Jeff Konya, Northeastern director of athletics and recreation, wrote in an emailed statement to the News that Northeastern compliance staff has contacted Athlete Ally to better understand how AEI scores are produced. In his statement, Konya said that he believes the next score will show a “substantial increase” after NU better understands how scores are calculated.  

“My perception is that in practice, day in and day out, we have an athletics culture that is very inclusive of LGBTQ+ and is very progressive,” Konya wrote. “I also know within the last few months we have expanded the racial and social justice platform to include LGBTQ+ issues.” 

After the initial score was released, Northeastern Athletics collaborated with Athlete Ally to see where the program could improve. Following, Northeastern’s score improved by 10 points, with an updated score of 40/100, five of those points being earned just from including a link to the NCAA transgender inclusion policy to their website. 

Northeastern currently has full marks in the “fan code of conduct” category. In order to receive these points, schools must have a publicly endorsed fan code of conduct which “explicitly protects against homophobic and transphobic language during competitions in all of their venues, for any sport,” according to Athlete Ally.

Northeastern has received partial points for its nondiscrimination policy, transgender inclusion policy, sexual harassment policy and LGBTQ+ educational resources

The nondiscrimination policy is publicly available and protects against certain forms of discrimination, but “does not explicitly protect against discrimination based on gender identity or gender expression,” Winemiller said.

To receive full points for the sexual harassment policy, “the athletics department would need to provide a publicly available sexual misconduct policy that explicitly specifies adherence by the athletic department to the policy,” Winemiller said.

Northeastern has received half marks for their LGTBQ+ educational resources because though links are provided on the athletics website, there is no additional information, such as descriptions of the resources or contact information for on-campus resources. 

The categories of annual partnership, pro-LGBTQ+ training for staff and pro-LGBTQ+ training for students all have zero points because there is no public evidence of collaboration with LGBTQ+ inclusion groups or the on-campus LGBTQ+ center. There is also no public evidence that the Northeastern Athletics Department has LGBTQ+ inclusion training that is accessible to or tailored to athletic staff or student athletes, Winemiller said. 

Northeastern University received a score of 40/100 on the 2021 AEI evaluation. Photo courtesy of Athlete Ally

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In wake of these changes that Northeastern made, Konya released a second statement

“Our compliance staff resubmitted our materials in its correct form for the AEI scale. While we will agree there is work to do, and we have plans to do so, you will notice a significant improvement to a 40 score. There may be additional points added as well. This puts us second in the CAA and in the middle of Hockey East,” Konya said.