We were tasked to research into and create an intervention for a problem we see on campus. I worked with Mihika Bansal and Evelyn DiSalvo to work on how to make CMU's campus more inclusive to the nonbinary community on campus, choosing club sports as it works within a binary system but has flexibility, as club sports do not adhere to NCAA rules. After weeks of secondary and primary research, participatory design workshops, and more, we came to create a booklet intended to be given to team presidents and captains to change the conversation around making their teams more gender inclusive.
Planning and Initial Mapping
We decided to focus on the nonbinary community for our project, as we each saw a lack of LGBTQ+ support and resources after spending a year at CMU. A lot of CMU operates within the gender binary, and we wanted to find areas of feasible intervention so that we could open up campus to those who may not identify within the traditional gender norms.
At first, we were planning tackling all extracurricular activities in order to open up the greater CMU community to this traditionally marginalized group. We wanted to know what the current policies were for nonbinary individuals joining student-run organizations, especially single-gender organizations, and if nonbinary individuals felt comfortable going through the process of navigating the policies themselves. The poster to the right was an initial plan to orient ourselves within the problem space, identifying our target population, the problem, our points of focus, and starting questions.
However, after some feedback, we decided to scale back the scope of our project in order to find an implementable intervention within the time period we had. Therefore, we decided to only focus on club sports. The club sports at CMU operate differently than other clubs on campus; depending on the sport, there are different levels of interaction between the men's and women's teams. This would be good in order to compare and contrast the policies for each individual club and any precedents they have regarding gender policies. Also, there are national guidelines for each sport, but there are no strict policies around hormones that are seen in NCAA. We knew that we could not change any national policies, but we could change how the individual club's handled their own team constitutions.
Our first steps before going into primary research was to map out what we knew from both prior knowledge and secondary internet research in order to find stakeholders as well as any gaps in our knowledge.
After identifying the different stakeholders and their roles, we created a contact list to begin to reach out to get primary information. We were able to contact and interview the Sports administrator for Title IX, our club sports coordinator, three different team captains, and two nonbinary students who were active in sports during high school.
We used two main research methods: surveys and interviews. We sent surveys to the nonbinary community as well as athletes on campus. We asked the first group to share some of their experiences with inclusivity and gender identity at CMU, and we asked the second group about the importance and role of the gender division in their sport. We used the findings from the surveys to inform our interview questions.
From our interviews we were able to find out some key insights: Title IX does not have any policies around gender discrimination in club sports, both team captains and our club sports coordinator were extremely willing to change their policies around gender inclusion, but because there were no precedents around nonbinary inclusion in the clubs, there was never any thought in including an explicit statement affirming that the sport is inclusive, and many nonbinary students had negative experiences in high school which deterred them from joining sports teams in college.
Using those takeaways, we were able to identify some areas to try to intervene to help diversify club sports: language, recruiting, team presence, and supportive resources. We wrote out a document of possible solutions to some of the issues we heard from each stakeholder, and used those in a participatory design workshop in which we had the participants (two team captains and one nonbinary student) rank them on two axes, one from most to least effective and the other from most to least feasible to implement. (seen below)
This workshop helped to not only vet the different ideas we had, but also generate new ideas that were agreed upon by the two main stakeholders in our project.
Designing the Final Intervention
We decided to make a guide book as our intervention because we know we cannot change how people act, but we can hopefully change how people think and talk about the issue of gender inclusivity. This booklet would be handed out to the leaders of the club sports as a guide to educate them about various ways to be more inclusive to nonbinary students.