Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Denison University Faces Investigation of Athletics Inequity

Denison University in Granville, Ohio, is reportedly under investigation by the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights, which received a complaint alleging that the university inequitably allocates athletic opportunities in violation of Title IX.  Denison, which competes in the NCAA's Division III, has about 2300 undergraduate students, 57% of whom are female.  Yet it provides far more athletic opportunities to male students: 329 compared to 241 for women, or about 58%.

The complaint alleges that Denison fails to comply with any one of the three tests available to educational institutions to demonstrate equity in the number of athletic opportunities for students of each sex.  First, Denison does not offer opportunities proportionate to enrollment, as demonstrated by the statistical disparity noted above. According to the complaint, Denison would need 90 additional athletic opportunities for women in order to comply with the proportionality test. The second option for demonstrating compliance is to show a history and continuing practice of expanding opportunities for the underrepresented sex, but this is also unavailable to Denison, which according to public data has not grown the size of its women's athletic program in the last 10 years.  Finally, Denison could demonstrate compliance by showing that despite its meager offerings, it is still satisfying the interests and abilities of the female student body.  The complaint, however, alleges that Denison likely falls short under this measure as well, given that there are women's sports sanctioned by Division III that Denison does not offer, and there is no reason to assume that women at Denison are less interested in those sports than the female students at other schools in the university's competitive region.

If OCR's investigation leads the agency to conclude that Denison is in violation of Title IX, it will likely require the university to agree to remedy the violation by assessing the athletic interests of its female students and adding opportunities accordingly.