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No Gaming the System When it Comes to Title IX

Tiseme Zegeye,
ACLU Women's Rights Project
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January 31, 2012

This year marks the 40th anniversary of Title IX, the groundbreaking federal law passed in 1972 to eliminate sex discrimination in educational institutions that receive federal funding. However, after four decades, its mandate continues to be ignored.

Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit heard arguments in a case in which one university continues to employ some disingenuous, if rather creative, strategies to achieve compliance with Title IX. In March 2009, Quinnipiac, a private university in Connecticut, announced it was terminating its women’s volleyball program, despite the fact that it already failed to provide women with equal athletic opportunities. Eliminating the women’s volleyball team would put Quinnipiac even further out of compliance with Title IX.

When Quinnipiac refused to reconsider its decision to terminate women’s volleyball, the team — represented by the ACLU of Connecticut, Equity Legal, and the law firm Pullman & Comley — filed a lawsuit on behalf of all women athletes.

Quinnipiac then attempted Title IX compliance by designating a new varsity sport of “competitive cheer” and by triple-counting female cross country runners who were also on the rosters of the women’s indoor and outdoor track teams — even if they did not actually compete. *

On July 22, 2011, the district court ruled that Quinnipiac had violated Title IX and prevented the university from eliminating any women’s athletic teams until it properly complies with the law. Arguments in Quinnipiac’s appeal were held today.

“It’s shameful that Quinnipiac University insists on maintaining dishonest rosters just so it can deny young women the same opportunities as men,” said Andrew Schneider, executive director of the ACLU of Connecticut. “Legitimate student athletes should not have to suffer because their school doesn’t want to play by the rules.”

“Title IX is clear that colleges have to provide female athletes with the same meaningful equal athletic opportunities that are available to men,” said Galen Sherwin, staff attorney with the ACLU Women’s Rights Project. “Schools can’t get around this requirement by offering inadequate programs like ‘competitive cheer’ that simply don’t meet accepted standards for varsity sports, no matter how much athleticism they may entail.”

As we celebrate the anniversary of Title IX, we hope the appellate court will reaffirm educational institutions’ obligations to comply with Title IX’s mandate for gender equality in athletics, without gaming the system.

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CORRECTION: A correction was made for greater accuracy. The fourth paragraph originally read: “Quinnipiac then attempted Title IX compliance by designating a new sport of “competitive cheer” and triple-counting runners on the cross-country and indoor and outdoor track teams — who were required to compete on all three teams — even if they did not actually compete.”

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