On August 5, 2019, a federal district court judge in Minnesota ruled that St. Cloud State University (“SCSU”), a public university in Minnesota, violated Title IX by providing fewer opportunities for women to compete in intercollegiate athletics compared to men. Portz et al. v. St. Cloud State University et al., No. 0:16-cv-01115 (D. Minn. Aug. 1, 2019).
In 2016, SCSU decided to cut six athletic programs, including the women’s tennis team and the women’s skiing team. After cutting the programs, ten female athletes, five from the tennis team and five from the women’s ski team, sued the school, alleging that the school was “biased toward men’s sports” and “out of compliance with Title IX’s gender equity requirements.”
The court’s decision:
The District Court of Minnesota concluded that SCSU violated Title IX. The court found that the school “consistently provided greater opportunities for male student-athletes from 2003-2016, giving them up to 172 more opportunities in one year during this 14-year period.” The court also found that women’s participation opportunities had “not consistently increased in more than a decade” and “significant disparities existed in the treatment of men’s and women’s teams.”
For example, the men’s basketball team received new uniforms each year and the men were permitted to keep the uniforms after their season. The women’s basketball team, however, had one set of uniforms (that were used for multiple years) and they were required to return the uniforms to the school at the conclusion of their season. The men’s teams also traveled more frequently and all of the costs were covered by the school. The women student-athletes, on the other hand, rarely traveled and had to rely on their own fundraising efforts to cover their costs when they did travel.
The court also found that the facilities for women and the care for women were inferior. For example, the trainer for the entire athletic department was located in the men’s locker room. The court believed that this affected how quickly and effectively female athletes were treated by the trainer.
In light of these circumstances, the court found that SCSU clearly violated Title IX.
SCSU’s future post-Portz:
SCSU was ordered to immediately create gender equity within its athletic programs, including the “permanent maintenance of the skiing and tennis teams.” SCSU was also ordered to “improve the practice, competitive, and locker room facilities to create comparable facilities for men and women, and to continue moving toward eliminating the gap in participation opportunities.” To ensure compliance, the school must report on the school’s efforts every six months.
We will continue to monitor this case if SCSU decides to appeal.