Update suggests gender equity issues

A University report hinted at possible Title IX issues in the school’s athletics department.

Brian Edwards

The University of Minnesota has released a seven-page update on gender equity investigations that implied potential Title IX noncompliance in some areas of the school’s athletics department.
 
The report — released to the Board of Regents on Friday  — was the summary of an oral presentation given to University administrators and stakeholders by attorney and Title IX expert Janet Judge. It alluded to possible problems with showers for the women’s soccer team, meal plans for athletes and the assignment of athletic trainers. 
 
The hushed and vague nature of the consultant’s findings presented to University officials has some questioning the University’s motives.
 
“Ms. Judge was asked to deliver an oral report, so there is no report to be shared,” said University spokesman Evan Lapiska in an email statement, noting that she was brought in to provide recommendations but not an audit. “This summary update is to show progress … on recommendations discussed with Ms. Judge.”
 
The report briefly covered three topics: the balance between the number of male and female athletes, financial aid and miscellaneous benefits. Judge was hired by the University to review the athletic department and its compliance with gender equity policies and began her review in 2014. 
 
Judge’s findings come as an Office for Civil Rights investigation continues. The investigation launched in 2015 after complaints about a lack of access to facilities for female athletes surfaced. 
 
The report found financial aid distribution and the balance between male and female athletes to be compliant, and it briefly discussed issues with the women’s soccer team showers, the removal of track facilities to build the new Athletes Village, the distribution of meals for athletes and some teams receiving more athletic trainers than others.
 
The University has agreed to find a spot for the track team on the East Bank, although no location has been decided on.
 
In the report, the University said it is working on many of the issues Judge brought up and said it believes the Athletes Village will solve many existing problems.
 
“Gopher Athletics continues to engage in active and aggressive monitoring and to move forward on various fronts identified as potential areas of concern to ensure equity in its programs,” the summary said. 
 
But Priscilla Lord, an attorney, donor and former member of the University’s athletic advisory committee, said she believes the University isn’t being transparent with Judge’s conclusions, questioning the private nature of the report. 
 
“They already knew what the answers would be,” she said, adding that a publicly-funded institution shouldn’t close an investigation of this type to the public. “They are covering their butts.”
 
Lord said she and other donors will closely watch how the Title IX investigations unfold but will wait to see the results before taking action.
 
Regent Michael Hsu said one of the biggest problems with Title IX compliance is the vague nature of the policies that can be interpreted in different ways.
 
He said Title IX investigations are time-consuming and something the University wants to avoid.
 
“If we are going to be in the athletics business, then we need to comply,” he said. “Title IX policies are the bare minimum.”