Women claim Duluth violating gender equity law

by Andrew Tellijohn

Three women at the University’s Duluth campus filed suit against the school last week, alleging sexual discrimination because the men’s and women’s athletic teams aren’t receiving equal treatment.
Jennifer Ann Thompson, Ginger Jeffrey and Renata Lindal added their names to a growing list of people demanding that the Duluth administration come in line with Title IX, a law requiring schools that receive federal funding to offer equal opportunities to male and female athletes.
“UMD’s denial of an equal opportunity to participate to women creates a vicious circle and leads to further discrimination against female students,” according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court of Minnesota.
The women contend that the male athletes receive more scholarship money than the female athletes, due in part to the Division I status of men’s hockey. The women’s hockey team is still placed in Division II, preventing them from receiving revenue equal to the men’s team.
“Title IX has been in effect for 25 years,” the complaint claims. “It is inexcusable that UMD has yet to comply with Title IX by failing to provide opportunities to accommodate its women students’ athletic interests and desires to the same degree that it accommodates those of its male students.”
The suit follows the one filed in February by Julie Grandson, a student at Duluth who claimed she had to quit playing soccer because scholarship money was not available for females.
The new complaint also alleges that during the 1995-96 school year, male students received $311,069 in scholarships while female students received only $69,323. During that period, the women’s department received none of the $250,000 in student services fees collected from Duluth campus students for the athletic department.
The suit seeks an injunction against the school that would force it to enact a budget giving women an equal opportunity to participate in university-sponsored sports.
The women in the latest dispute are being represented by Steve Samborski, a Minnetonka lawyer, and Diane Henson, an attorney from Austin, Texas who specializes in gender equity cases. She has represented women in several successful Title IX lawsuits.
A recently released gender equity survey performed by the National Collegiate Athletic Association showed women’s athletics have made financial gains, but the gaps between financial support of men’s and women’s athletics are still growing wider.
“The answer to this is to file more lawsuits,” Henson was quoted as saying last week. “Apparently we need to get more federal judges as athletic directors.”
The complaint also asks that the case be deemed a class action suit, which would allow other students with similar grievances to add their names to the complaint.
Susan Latto, public relations representative for the Duluth campus, said the administration has no comment because it has received no official notification of the lawsuit.