Friday, July 13, 2007

Fields Explains Title IX's Application to Club and Intramural Sports

Professor Sarah Fields of Ohio State -- author of Female Gladiators, a book we greatly admire and highly recommend -- has a new article in the Journal of College and University Law titled "Intramural and Club Sports: The Impact of Title IX." (citation: 33 J. College & U. L. 521 (2007)).

Fields points out that most Title IX lawsuits regarding athletics address disparities in intercollegiate sports, notwithstanding that 5.5 million people participate in intramural and club teams compared to about 487,000 who compete at the intercollegiate level.

Though Title IX clearly governs club and intramural sports (as the law covers all university programs), it is not always clear whether a university is in compliance. Intramurals don't necessarily have a set number of participation opportunities, and many coed teams do not cap the number of participants of either sex. But if an intramural program reserves particular slots for men and women, the proportion of these slots should mirror the gender breakdown of the student body or else schools must ensure that they are satisfying the interests and abilities of the underrepresented sex. When it comes to club teams, which are student-initiated, Fields suggests that universities with gender-neutral policies for approving and recognizing clubs are likely in compliance.

Schools also must ensure that they do not discriminate on the basis of sex in the support they offer to intramural and club sports, particularly, access to equipment, facilities, and supplies. It would be unlawful, for instance, to provide men's clubs/intramurals better or more frequent practice or game times (or vice versa), or to require male participants to furnish their own equipment but supply comparable equipment to female participants (or vice versa).

Fields concludes,
Colleges and universities should be aware of potential Title IX violations when it comes to intramural and club sports. Institutions need to be aware of the requirements to provide equal access and equal opportunity in terms of funding and facilities to intramural and club sports. Institutions should be responsive to their students' interests and abilities and be sure that they are providing adequate intramural leagues with comparable scheduling and equipment provision.


Anonymous said...

I certainly hope it's clear, seeing how it is explicitly stated in the controlling regulation: 34 C.F.R. 106.41 (a).

Are there any recipients who are trying to say that club and intramural are not covered?

EBuz said...

Well there a lot of misunderstandings about Title IX! We posted a while back about a volleyball club that had been denied recognition because the university didn't realize that Title IX applied. (That universities can't discriminate on the basis of pregnancy is also expressly stated in the regs, and that is also just now sinking in!)

Fields's article does more than make the case that Title IX applies, she explains what compliance means for intramural and club programs, which raise different issues than varsity programs.

Anonymous said...

Does the law apply to non-athletic teams?