Although “Title IX” has become almost synonymous with “campus sexual assault,” that’s not all the federal law covers. It was designed to protect students and staff from all forms of gender discrimination, including limited sports opportunities, which is the issue at the heart of a new lawsuit against Eastern Michigan University. According to the lawsuit, the school shut down several women’s sports teams, including their tennis and softball teams.
Despite the fact that cuts were announced just earlier this year, legal experts have been referring to the discrimination case as “retro” because it feels like something that would have happened in the 1990s but shouldn’t be a problem in 2018. And yet, that’s exactly why Title IX was created in the first place – to ensure that female students are not only treated fairly but that they receive the same opportunities as their male counterparts.
Women’s sports, along with men’s nonrevenue sports (such as wrestling and swimming) have long been considered expendable by schools that continue to funnel millions into their football and men’s basketball teams. While it feels like it should be an outdated discussion, the sad fact is that it remains all too relevant.
Despite claims that it’s all about the money, Eastern Michigan University’s faculty union did its own set of calculations, which it spread through a media campaign it set up. They found that cutting women’s tennis and softball (as well as wrestling and men’s swimming and diving) would actually cost the university money.
Nevertheless, the University continues to insist the cuts were purely cost-saving measures that were required in order to save the school’s financial stability. In response to the Title IX lawsuit, the university released a statement saying the cuts were consistent with similar ones that were made across the university with the goal of saving money that could then be redirected towards the academic programs they offer and modernizing the facilities where they’re offered.
But according to the students who filed the lawsuit, this is just another example of the school’s long-standing gender discrimination.
Under Title IX, the proportion of male and female athletes must reflect the ratio of overall enrollment in the school. Failing that, the federal law gives schools a chance to demonstrate that they are meeting the needs and interests of each gender, or that they have a history of continuing to expand their programs in order to try to meet those needs and interests. According to Eastern Michigan’s own, most recent report, its undergraduate student body is currently about 60 percent female and 40 percent male. Yet, according to the Title IX lawsuit, athletic participation is about 56 percent male and only 44 percent female.
The school disputed those figures, pointing out that it has 10 women’s athletic teams and only seven male athletic teams. Unfortunately for the school, the number of teams doesn’t matter.
The two students who filed the proposed class-action lawsuit said the cut of their teams from school offerings have ruined their life plans, despite the fact that the school has offered to continue to honor their scholarships (as well as the scholarships of all the other students whose teams were cut). But none of that helps them if they can’t play their chosen sport.
Between cuts in government funding of higher education and a general increase in Title IX lawsuits, legal experts say this is likely to be only the first in a series of sports-equity complaints under Title IX. Our Lake Forest, Evanston and Wheaton litigation attorneys have more than two and half decades of experience helping clients unravel the complexities of Illinois and out-of-state employment and education laws. Our Chicago student rights attorneys and Chicago business, commercial, shareholder dispute and partnership dispute trial lawyers represent individuals, family businesses and enterprises of all sizes in a variety of legal disputes, including disputes among partners and shareholders as well as lawsuits between businesses and and consumer rights, auto fraud, and wage claim individual and class action cases. In every case, our goal is to resolve disputes as quickly and successfully as possible, helping business clients protect their investments and get back to business as usual. From offices in Oak Brook, near Elmhurst and Naperville, we serve clients throughout Illinois and the Midwest.
Our attorneys work out of Chicago and Oak Brook offices and pursue claims for workers all over the Chicago area including Plainfield and Elk Grove Village. We protect unpaid workers who haven’t received overtime throughout the Chicago area including in DuPage, Lake, McHenry, Kane and Cook Counties.
Our Evanston and Wilmette employment and faculty and student rights’ lawyers are intimately familiar with the issues that arise during education rights litigation. We are based in Chicago and Oak Brook and represents clients throughout the country on many different types of complex matters. If you are the victim of Title IX violations you can call us at one of our offices near Hyde Park, and Rogers Park at (312) 869-4095 or contact us online.