KU takes steps on Title IX issue

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Kansas Athletics has reached an agreement with the government addressing a complaint that it discriminates against male athletes.

KU will have to submit documentation and a plan to ensure it is in full compliance with the law as part of the agreement, which resolves a Title IX complaint filed last November.

The agreement doesn’t mean KU is out of compliance with Title IX, but was a mutually agreed upon course of action to resolve the complaint between KU and the Office of Civil Rights, which oversees Title IX regulations.

Ron Neugent, a Wichita dentist and former KU swimmer who was a member of the 1980 Olympic team, filed the initial complaint against KU using the civil rights legislation long used to bring about equality for women.

At Kansas Athletics today, unlike many cases in the past, men are the under-represented gender. Though men and women are enrolled at KU in about equal rates, women comprise nearly 55 percent of the total student-athletes at the university.

KU eliminated its men’s swimming and men’s tennis programs in 2001, citing budget concerns at the time.

Jim Marchiony, associate athletics director, said that the school works with a Title IX consultant, and has a history of being in compliance with the law, and that is where Kansas Athletics’ focus would remain.

He said he anticipated that any fix would likely be a minor one, but said he didn’t yet know what form it could take.

“What we’ve got to do is make sure population shifts haven’t affected what we’re doing,” Marchiony said. “We don’t have any doubt that OCR will look at the report and determine that we are in compliance.”

To comply with Title IX, a university may demonstrate it:

• Is providing athletic opportunities for men and women at a rate substantially proportional to the enrollment rates of men and women.

• Has a continuing practice of program expansion for an under-represented gender.

• Can demonstrate the interest and abilities of the under-represented gender are being fully accommodated.

In a letter to the government, KU said it intended to comply with the first of the three requirements.

Neugent said he hoped that was not an indication KU would look at this in the way that many Title IX complaints alleging discrimination against women have been handled in the past. In those cases, many athletics departments across the country chose to get rid of sports and opportunities for men to equalize participation and enrollment rates.

Now that the pendulum has swung in the other direction, Neugent said he filed the complaint in the hopes that some lost sports could be regained.

“I hope they see this as an chance to add opportunities for men, and not as an opportunity to take away walk-on spots for women,” Neugent said.

The resolution agreement says that, in order to address the complaint, KU should — by next March — assess its participation rates and enrollment rates for men and women.

Then, by April 2011, KU should submit a plan to demonstrate it is meeting the first part of the three-part test, and by December 2011, should follow up with documentation it is in full compliance.

Dan Johnson, a KU senior and president of the KU Swimming Club, said he and nearly every other member of the club swimming team want varsity swimming renewed at KU. While he acknowledged that laws like Title IX have helped bring about balance between men and women, he said he’s not as satisfied with how the process has gone.

“It’s a tricky balance,” he said. “It’s the fact that we’re cutting opportunities to equalize opportunities” instead of adding options for both men and women that’s troubling, he said.