University will undergo investigation for alleged Title IX violations

A complaint was filed with the Office for Civil Rights.

Betsy Helfand

A federal office will investigate a complaint alleging that the University of Minnesota has discriminated against women on the basis of gender, according to a government document and a press release.

The complaint was filed with the United States Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights to explore whether the school had violated Title IX, which protects against gender-based discrimination.

Specifically, the complaint alleges that the University fails to provide women with the same opportunities as men in areas including equipment and supplies, scheduling, facilities, and athletic scholarships, according a letter from the Office for Civil Rights obtained by the Minnesota Daily.  

Last summer, before the University received the complaint, it hired a gender-equity consultant to review the athletics department, a press release said.

“The University and Gopher Athletics are committed to Title IX compliance,” the release said. “We focus on the student-athlete experience to ensure our student-athletes are provided equitable experiences and opportunities.”

An anonymous party filed the complaint in November. That party wrote in an email to track athletes that the complaint’s intent was to “prevent the destruction of the current outdoor track or force the construction of a new track — before the 2016 outdoor season.”

A football building included in the athletics department’s $190 million facilities plan is slated to displace the school’s outdoor track, home to 136 student-athletes, 87 of which are women.

One member of the Gophers track team said student-athletes haven’t been told where the new facility will be built, but that the St. Paul campus is an option.

Athletics Director Norwood Teague recently wrote in an email to student-athletes that the University and Gopher Athletics “will cooperate fully with the investigation,” which he expects to begin in February.

If the OCR finds the University to be out of compliance with Title IX, it risks losing federal funding.

The Daily reported in September that the OCR was investigating the University for a separate complaint alleging that the school didn’t take effective steps to end sexual harassment by a former volunteer assistant coach for the women’s gymnastics coach.