Saturday, January 24, 2015

OCR to Investigate University of Minnesota Athletics

The Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights will investigate a Title IX complaint directed at the University of Minnesota athletics department, according to an article in the local press yesterday. The complaint alleges that the department does not provide comparable facilities to women's programs, as evidenced by the women's cross-country and track teams' exclusion from a proposed $190 million athletic "village" that will provide facilities for football and men's and women's basketball.  The running sports, which account for almost half of the opportunities offered in women's athletics, will actually be losing their existing track to make way for the new village.  The team, along with its men's team counterpart, may even be relocated to a facility four miles away in St. Paul.

OCR's investigation would presumably focus on the overall treatment of men's and women's athletic programs in comparison to each other. At first blush, it seems problematic that the new facility will benefit a far greater number of male than female athletes and that its construction seems to be disrupting a far greater number of female athletes than male (running sports account for 227 opportunities for women and 145 for men). Depending on the level of quality of the facilities for other women's sports, however, it's theoretically possible for OCR to determine that the programs receive equal treatment in the aggregate.  We shall see what the investigation reveals.