Thursday, April 12, 2007

Slippery Rock Settlement

Slippery Rock University has settled a lawsuit brought by female athletes challenging the university's decision to cut its women's swimming and women's water polo, among other teams, as part of an overall plan to reduce athletic department expenditures.

In July, a federal district court judge granted the athletes' request for a preliminary injunction against cutting the two teams. The reasoned that SRU's cuts did not result in substantial proportionality, the first alternative compliance prong, and that SRU neither satisfy the second prong, history and continuing practice of program expansion for women's varsity teams. Thus, it was left with prong three--accommodating the interests and abilities of female athletes--as its only option. Cutting two viable women's teams clearly violated this prong, and on this ground awarded a preliminary injunction to the plaintiffs.

This week, a magistrate judge approved a settlement of the case. Plaintiffs' counsel at the Women's Law Project provide this summary of its terms, among them: SRU has agreed to invest $300,000 in its women’s athletic program by making improvements to sports facilities and to equalize access to uniforms, travel, equipment, publicity, trainers. It also agreed to "retain women’s swimming and water polo as varsity teams for one full academic year after SRU has achieved compliance with the proportionality requirement of Title IX within two percentage points." And it agreed to increase funding for women's athletics every year it is not within two percentage points of proportionality.

For the July order see: Choike v. Slippery Rock University, 2006 WL 2060576 (W.D. Pa. July 21, 2006).

UPDATE: The magistrate's order is available at 2007 WL 184778 (W.D. Pa. Jan. 22, 2007) and the federal district court judge's final approval of the settlement is at 2007 WL 2317323 (W.D. Pa. Aug. 8, 2007).

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