U of I's pink locker room assailed at forum
Some defend the decor at Iowa's Kinnick Stadium, but others say it is sexist and homophobic.


September 28, 2005

Iowa City, Ia. - Kinnick Stadium's pink visitors' locker room contributes to an atmosphere that is sexist and homophobic, some University of Iowa students and faculty members told a committee studying the university's athletics program Tuesday.

"I'm not asking you take out the urinals. I'm not asking you to paint the walls," said Erin Buzuvis, a law professor whose comments on the issue recently drew a firestorm of controversy and death threats. "I'm asking you to write this up as a genuine gender-equity concern."

More than 60 people attended Tuesday's public forum, which was part of an NCAA recertification process that Division I schools are required to complete.

"I was a college athlete," said Terry Northrup, a U of I law student who played women's lacrosse at Wells College in New York. "I love the color pink, and I find it offensive."

The majority of speakers came out in response to comments made last week by Buzuvis, who drew many Hawkeye fans' ire when she said painting the opposing teams' locker room pink was sexist and homophobic.

Just one speaker at the forum defended the locker room.

"Pink is being pigeonholed," said Ben Bessman of Iowa City, a university employee. "The pink locker room is part of Iowa football history."

Buzuvis and others argued that because pink is associated with girls and effeminate men, the university intended to make a statement that the opposing team is weak, belittling women and gays, and perpetuating a social stereotype.

"These kinds of stereotypes will make it harder for my daughters who already play hockey to play in college because there aren't going to be as many teams if we think women are docile," said Jill Gaulding, a law professor who wore a pink sweater.

The locker room's color scheme was devised in the 1970s by longtime Hawkeye coach Hayden Fry. During recent stadium renovations, designers opted to retain the color, painting even the urinals pink.

Since making the statements, Buzuvis said she's received death threats and was berated on fan Web sites, her blog and via e-mail.

Hawkeye fans argued that the professor was overreacting. The pink locker room is an Iowa athletic institution, some fans said.

"I don't see any reason to change it," said Josh Madison, a U of I junior from Marshalltown studying economics and pre-law.

By retaining the pink locker room, "they're just honoring a tradition started a long time ago," he said.

But Monique DiCarlo, director of the U of I's Women's Resource and Action Center, said the issue has been discussed by members of women's organizations on campus for many years.

DiCarlo said the topic is worthy of debate and should be part of a larger discussion about the status of women in society.

"This is a curious situation that certainly requires more dialogue," she said.

"At the same time, with the same kind of passion and commitment we bring to this issue, I would hope we can call upon the community to take on issues like affordable housing, domestic violence, sexual assault, the living wage and encouraging women to run for office."

The U of I committee studying athletics, which includes university administrators, athletics officials and students, has been meeting since last fall as part of the recertification process. Equity in sports is among the topics the committee is reviewing.

Patricia Cain, U of I provost who chairs the committee, said the committee hadn't heard the concerns before last week.

"This is the first it's come up," Cain said. "The committee has not had a chance to address it."

A final report is due to the NCAA on Oct. 15.

Brian Solverson, a senior communications major from Darien, Ill., said the locker room color scheme is all in good fun.

"I haven't heard of any teams complaining about it," he said. "If they were complaining about it, I could see the concern, but they're not."