By Amber DeFabio
From 2004 to 2014, KU closed the gap between female undergraduate enrollment and female athletic participation by almost six percent according to the US Department of Education’s data. Yet, it still fails to be in compliance with the federal Title IX law prohibiting gender-based discrimination.
Based upon the Equity in Athletics Data Analysis, the population of undergraduate women dropped from 58.1 percent in 2004 to 56.1 percent in 2014 and the participation of female athletes rose from 46.6 percent in 2004 to 50.4 percent in 2014. However, the Office of Civil Rights mandates that any federally funded school must have a one percent difference at most between the undergraduate female enrollment and female athletic participation in order to be compliant.
The Women’s Law Project filed complaints against nine Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education members, including KU, on April 17, 2014. The complaints brought against KU allege that the university failed to address the lack of equity in its athletic programs for female students.
“Title IX was formed decades ago,” said Terry Fromson, Women’s Law Project managing attorney. “The fact that they have ignored their female population all these decades is simply wrong.”
Title IX of the Education Amendments has prohibited sex discrimination by federally funded educational programs since 1972 and requires schools to provide equal athletic opportunity, financial assistance and recruiting support.
In order to be Title IX compliant, a university must meet one of the following requirements: provide women with athletic opportunities in substantial proportion to their full-time undergraduate enrollment, demonstrate a history of continuing practice of increasing athletic opportunities for women, or effectively accommodate the athletic interests and abilities of women.
According to the Women’s Law Project, KU has failed to meet all three of these requirements.
“The law project’s complaint was valid as it relates to proportionality,” said Michelle Grober, associate athletic director at KU.
However, not everyone was aware of the offset in proportionality throughout the years.
“I was so young and naïve,” KU alumni All-American, Michele DeAngelo, said. “There was no information back then at all, and we didn’t have an advocate at that time either.”
DeAngelo was inducted into KU’s athletic Hall of Fame in 1989. DeAngelo and Denise Long were the first women inducted, 12 years after the first Hall of Fame inductions.
Throughout the 10 analyzed years, the proportion gap averaged 10.9 percent. When the Women’s Law Project’s complaints were filed, KU would have needed to add 154 more female athletes to their programs in order to be in compliance.
The university submitted a Voluntary Resolution Agreement in an attempt to resolve the allegations in the Women’s Law Project’s complaints. The agreement stated that KU would survey the student population to determine the unmet needs of the female athletes’ interests and abilities. The survey was given in the spring of 2015.
The most recent women’s varsity sports added to KU’s athletic program included bowling and lacrosse, as a result of the previous survey. However, according to Fromson, neither of these sports added enough numbers to female athletic participation to satisfy an effort to become compliant. The 2015 survey showed interests in new sports that may meet this need.
“Kutztown has several female club sports with no varsity equivalent,” Fromson said. “The existence of these women’s club teams indicates that there is unmet interest in women’s athletics at Kutztown.”
On November 24, 2015, KU discarded the Voluntary Resolution Agreement and submitted a Roster Management Plan to the OCR that states KU’s intent to limit the men’s team rosters while recruiting more female athletes for the current women’s teams.
“I do not believe that the answer to the problem is to add another sport,” Gober said. “With the current financial situation, and the ability (or lack of) to support another women’s sport, I feel it would create more inequities.”
The plan’s projection puts KU into the one percent compliance threshold by the 2017-18 school year based upon the 2015 female undergraduate percentage of 54.7 percent and the 2014 female participation percentage. KU’s goal is to have 54 percent of athletic participation in its program be women.
“For a school to respond to Title IX now by adding additional opportunities to existing teams that no one seems to be asking for and that will not provide a genuine opportunity to the athletes who exceed the optimal number on the team is not what the law requires,” Fromson said.
The Roster Management Plan specifically mentions that KU will no longer sponsor the club women’s lacrosse team in hopes that this will reap beneficial effects for the varsity women’s lacrosse team.
However, according to KU Student Government Board’s minutes, the university already hasn’t been sponsoring the women’s lacrosse club since the 2007-08 school year.
Amy Sandt, the director of Recreational Services, who oversees club sports, said she had no knowledge of KU’s Roster Management Plan’s proposal to disband the club women’s lacrosse team and that the club team has not received money from SGB or Recreational Sports Club Council for some time.
The Roster Management Plan was submitted to the OCR for review more than five months ago. At this time, KU has still not received word on if the plan has been accepted or not.
A graphic progression of KU’s Title IX involvement can be found here.