IUP among nine state schools being accused of Title IX breach

A women’s advocacy group has filed a complaint accusing nine Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education schools, including Indiana University of Pennsylvania, of violating Title IX.

The complaint, filed April 16, has been brought to the Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education by the Women’s Law Project, an advocacy group out of Philadelphia.

Title IX, which is part of the Educational Amendments of 1972, is a law that prohibits gender discrimination in any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Web page.

The group is asking the OCR to investigate IUP to determine whether the university is providing female students with equivalent opportunities in varsity sports and consistently providing adequate recruitment funding and financial assistance.

The section of the law dealing with athletic opportunity requires that schools accomplish one part of a three-part test. The school has to show it is providing women with opportunities in proportion to its enrollment, has a history of continually increasing women’s athletic opportunities, or accommodating the athletic interests of women.

According to the complaint, IUP does not and has not provided opportunities to female students in numbers proportionate to their enrollment, which bars it from part one of the Title IX participation test. For the past 10 years, the participation gap for women has ranged from 12.11 percent in 2002-03 to 6.48 percent in 2012-13, and has noticeably varied from year to year. The gap averaged 7 percent over the 10 academic years.

The complaint also states that IUP must add 77 additional athletic opportunities for women to achieve proportionality.

IUP does not achieve part two of the test either, as data provided by the Equity in Athletics Data Analysis and evidence gathered on IUP’s website shows that the school does not have a history or continuing practice of expanding athletic participation opportunities for women, as the university has not added a new women’s athletic program in the past decade.

Finally, the complaint states that information available on IUP’s website suggests that the university is not accommodating the interests of women athletes, as required by part three of the participation test. The group points to IUP’s women’s rugby team not being varsity as an example, as multiple other schools in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference field teams, which makes intercollegiate competition viable.

This is not the first time IUP has been accused of violating Title IX, as the school faced a class action lawsuit in 1993, brought by women students, according to leagle.com. The suit centered on IUP’s elimination of two women’s athletic programs – field hockey and gymnastics – in 1991 due to a budget crisis. The district court decided that IUP did in fact violate Title IX and ruled in favor of the plaintiffs. Both teams were reinstated.