Concerns at the U of M Regarding Gender Equity
Re-printed from Star Tribune
Officials say they have taken steps to ensure compliance with the law.
October 3, 2015 12:38am
Aaron LavinskyUniversity of Minnesota President Eric Kaler, shown earlier in the month, sent the eight-page Interim Report and Equity Plan for Gopher Athletics to the Board of Regents.
Two years after hiring a consultant to conduct a gender equity review of its athletics department, the University of Minnesota has released a summary that only hints at her findings but insists that any potential problems are being addressed.
On Friday, the university released an eight-page Interim Report and Equity Plan for Gopher Athletics, which cites a comprehensive review conducted in 2014 by Janet Judge, a Boston attorney and expert in gender equity issues.
The U, however, has never publicly disclosed Judges findings, and records show that it took steps to ensure that her work was kept confidential, classifying it as attorney-client privilege.
Fridays report, which was sent to the Board of Regents by U President Eric Kaler, gives the first public glimpse of some of Judges concerns. It says that she raised potential issues about cramped practice facilities and scheduling conflicts for practice space, and addressed issues of financial aid, participation rates and other benefits/treatment for male and female athletes.
It also cited complaints from coaches and others about the lack of shower facilities for women in the soccer stadium, and about track facilities being displaced by a new Athletes Village, which will mainly benefit football and basketball players.
Since last year, the U.S. Department of Education has been conducting an investigation into an anonymous complaint of gender discrimination in the Us athletics department. That investigation is ongoing.
Report on equity in U athletics
- ?Number of men and women athletes satisfies Title IX test.
- ?Financial aid for men and women in acceptable range.
- ?Displacement of track by planned Athletes Village will have greater impact on female athletes.
- ?Plans in works to build new track on East Bank campus.
Source: University of Minnesota report to regents, Oct. 1, 2015
But the universitys internal report emphasizes that the athletics department has taken multiple steps to ensure that its in compliance with the federal law known as Title IX, which bars sex discrimination at colleges and universities.
Gopher Athletics is proud of its program, including its ongoing efforts to ensure equity for all student athletes, concludes the report, which was prepared by the athletics department, university lawyers and a Title IX coordinator. At the same time, the report noted, It is always looking for ways to improve its program.
Evan Lapiska, a university spokesman, defended the universitys decision not to disclose details of Judges review or to say whether she found evidence of Title IX violations.
She wasnt brought in to do an audit, he said. She was brought in to look at the department and make recommendations.
The report noted that the university neither asked for nor received a written report from Judge, who is president of Sports Law Associates, a law firm based in Maine specializing in intercollegiate sports. Instead, under her $20,000 contract, she was invited to give an oral presentation of her findings to a select group of U officials in February.
Minneapolis attorney Priscilla Lord, an alumna and donor, said Fridays report confirmed some of her suspicions about disparities between mens and womens athletics at the U. But she said she would like to see more specifics. It was a very general, general report, she said. She also expressed concern about the secrecy surrounding Judges review. I think the only reason you do that is because youve got something to hide, she said.
Former womens volleyball coach Stephanie Schleuder said in an e-mail Friday that even though the report is intended to be a broad overview, it leaves significant equity issues unaddressed and is almost worthless without some specifics.
Even before Judge was hired, U officials were expressing concerns about keeping the findings confidential, according to two other Title IX experts who were candidates for the job.
Judy Sweet, a former president of the NCAA who is now a Title IX consultant, said that U officials seemed preoccupied with confidentiality during her 2013 interview.
What I do recall most distinctly was the committee probing on how I might keep my review and recommendations from being a public document, she told the Star Tribune. That was when I asked about access to the president. I felt very strongly that he needed a written report from me or, at a minimum, a verbal report. After raising that question, she said, she didnt hear from the U again.
Donna Lopiano, president of Sports Management Resources in Connecticut, said that confidentiality was raised in her interview as well. She said she was told that the U wanted to hire an attorney so that it could keep the consultants work confidential under attorney-client privilege.
U officials have denied that they hired Judge, the only lawyer among the three candidates, in order to keep her findings secret, noting that she is a nationally recognized expert in the field.
Lapiska said that Fridays report was intended as a general update on the universitys progress.