Saturday, April 19, 2014

Nine Public Universities in Pennsylvania Named in Title IX Complaints

The Pennsylvania-based Women's Law Project has filed complaints with the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights charging nine of the state's public universities with violating Title IX for offering disproportionately low number of athletic opportunities to female students.

The complaints target the state universities at Bloomsburg, Cheyney, Clarion, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millerville and Shippensburg.  Title IX requires that colleges and universities provide an equitable number of athletic opportunities to male and female students, which they can demonstrate in one of three ways, one of which is a proportionality test.  The WLP's complaints allege, however, that the percentage of athletic opportunities available to women is lower than the percentage of students who are female, with gaps averaging from 7 to almost 15 percent. Collectively, the system would have to offer 900 more athletic opportunities in order to provide female students the same opportunities for athletic participation.

The second way to demonstrate compliance is to show a "history and continuing practice" of expanding opportunities for the underrepresented sex, i.e., women.  Yet, the complaints show that these schools have not added opportunities for women in recent years.  At Millersville, the percentage of opportunities to women increased, but this was only because the school eliminated some opportunities for men. This does not qualify as expanding opportunities for women.

The third way to demonstrate compliance is to show that the athletic opportunities available to the underrepresented sex are sufficient to satisfy their interests and abilities.  To this end, the complaints present allegations that vary by school, but include one or more of the following: club teams that have not been elevated to varsity status, the absence of teams for women in sports that are sponsored by the league to which the school belongs, the lack of any process for evaluating women's interests in other sports that are not offered, or a disproportionately low budget for recruiting for women's sports.

It is now up to the OCR whether to open investigation at any or all of these nine schools.