UMD Title IX review underway

The Department of Education launched an investigation last month over a filed complaint.

by Taya Banjac

The U.S. Department of Education has launched an investigation into a Title IX complaint filed last November by former University of Minnesota-Duluth coaches and former and current student athletes alleging that the school discriminated against women’s athletics. 
The school has until the end of March to provide information to the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, said spokesperson Lynne Williams. The department announced the investigation last month.
The complaint follows a lawsuit by former coaches, Shannon Miller, Jennifer Banford and Annette Wiles, filed last September, claiming they were discriminated against based on gender, nationality and sexual orientation. 
According to the Title IX complaint, the school allegedly provided men’s athletics with more funding for recruiting, scholarships, travel, food and equipment, and it gave men’s athletics bigger facilities and more media attention, while cutting budgets, scholarships and recruitment for women’s athletics. 
“The disparities in benefits and services are numerous, systemic and affect all female athletes at UMD,” the complaint said. 
The complaint asks that the school remedy any Title IX violations, as determined by the ORC.
Dan Siegel, the attorney who filed the complaint on behalf of the women, said there has been progress in creating equity in women’s athletics, but there’s still room for improvement.
“For every one university that is investigated by the Office of Civil Rights and agrees to reform its practices, there are probably 20 who also reform their practices to avoid having OCR visiting,” Siegel said. “This is just another important step to make sure that this battle is really won.”
Siegel said Title IX investigations almost always end in negotiations between a university and ORC. 
A school has never lost its federal funding in a Title IX investigation, he said.
“So far in the history of Title IX that’s never happened because universities do not want to jeopardize what turns out to be quite an important aspect of their resources,” Siegel said. “So they agree, and problem solved.”
UMD’s investigation and negotiation could take one to two years to complete, Siegel said. 
Williams said the school is “fully prepared to comply with all of the requested information” and is in the process of gathering the information. 
“It is standard for the Department of Education to investigate complaints that they receive,” she said. “We are confident the investigation will yield a positive result.”