"Saddle Tramps" Booster Club Denies Excluding Woman

Affiliate: ACLU of Texas
September 24, 1999 12:00 am

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LUBBOCK, TX — They hoot when the Red Raiders win and holler like maniacs after a loss. For 64 years, the rowdy and raucous Texas Tech Saddle Tramps have been known across West Texas as a famed and exclusive spirit club. And as far back as anyone can remember, the Tramps have only been men, the Associated Press reports.

Then came Jennifer Slattery, the first woman ever to apply for membership. The Saddle Tramps say she wasn’t denied admission this spring because she’s a woman. But the 50-member group has applied for male-only legal designation that would exempt it from an anti-discrimination law.

The controversy has evolved into a case of tradition versus tolerance.

“I’m not sure why this issue always has to come up,” said Rick Murray, a member of the organization in 1957. “It even comes up with the Boy Scouts.”

Tramps executive board member Matthew Hines wouldn’t comment on why Ms. Slattery was kept from joining but told AP that the group doesn’t exclude women. He said the group’s meeting are private and that he is “not allowed to discuss what goes on.”

“We have never discouraged females from coming to rushes,” Hines said. “I have not noticed a lot of females ever being interested in joining.”

“We’re a spirit organization here and we support male athletics. We have our own section in Jones Stadium provided by the athletic department. We ring bells, do chants and get everyone spirited.”

None of which can’t be done by a woman, Ms. Slattery argues.

“There really is no reason why a woman shouldn’t be able to join,” said the Tech junior. “If they get single-sex status, I don’t think it’s fair they get my money or other females’ money.”

The Saddle Tramps receive about $2,000 a year in student fees, Tech officials said.

School officials say the group may not discriminate against women – or anyone else – but added that there is no evidence Ms. Slattery was excluded because of her sex.

Hines said the group has asked the Internal Revenue Service to recognize it as an all-male organization, exempting it from the Title IX anti-discrimination law. The designation would allow the group to continue receiving public money.

Jay Jacobson, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, says a history as a single-sex group is no basis for an exemption.

“The idea that a public group’s history will allow them to be exempt from discrimination laws is ridiculous,” Jacobson said. “If they receive public money and make use of public resources then they will have to let women join.”

The Saddle Tramps are named after the colloquial expression for traveling ranchers for hire.

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