Thursday, October 09, 2014

Title IX Invoked in Early Efforts to Protect Rights of Female Athletes at Alabama, Berkeley

A couple of Title IX stories about women's college athletics caught my eye this week. Here is a brief roundup.

First, a former women's basketball player at the University of Alabama is using Title IX to challenge the athletic department's allegedly discriminatory manner of allocating scholarships as well as a "fairly broad and comprehensive pattern of bullying, harassment, retaliatory conduct and institutional hazing," according to the attorney representing Daisha Simmons. The details of these allegation are not entirely clear, but the alleged retaliation and harassment are argued to have crystallized in the athletic department's attempt to block Simmons's request to the NCAA for a waiver that would have allowed her to play immediately upon transferring to another institution. It appears from this article that the player's lawyer has filed a complaint with the university, as it is noted that the complaint triggers an internal investigation by the university.  However, if the matter is not resolved internally the player's attorney says the matter would likely "wind up in federal court."

Second, some members of the women's field hockey team at the University of California - Berkeley are considering whether to file a Title IX lawsuit against the institution to challenge its failure to provide them with a field the 2015-16 season. The Bears are already playing without a home facility this season while their field is under construction, and recently found out that the displacement would last into next season as well. As a result of their displacement, the team has to travel to other facilities -- the closest of which are an hour away -- for both competitions and daily practice. All that time spent commuting time cuts into the players' available time to take classes and engage in other aspects of student life. If the players pursue Title IX litigation, I predict that central issue will be whether Berkeley treats other men's teams differently when they are displaced for field construction, such as by doing a better job to minimize the length of displacement and finding better temporary facilities for games and practices. If the players don't have an argument along these lines, however, it is possible that a court would see this situation as one that is unfortunate but that does not constitute sex discrimination.