Questions linger about Title IX

The Butler athletics department is still waiting to hear whether it is compliant with Title IX.

Title IX is legislation that is meant to ensure equal opportunity in athletics for women.

Last May, the university entered into a resolution agreement with the Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education to become Title IX compliant.

Butler had a Sept. 1 deadline to provide documentation that it was in compliance and treating all athletes equally.

Beth Goetz, associate athletic director for administration, said the report has been submitted, and the athletics department is now waiting for a decision from the Office for Civil Rights.

“We believe that we are in compliance,” Goetz said. “But if they find we aren’t, we are going to take the necessary steps to correct it.”

The Office for Civil Rights considers the situation an open case with the documents still in review. As a result, the office cannot discuss the specifics of the case or any findings to this point, according to a spokesperson for the Department of Education.

The Office for Civil Rights requested information about participation numbers and financial aid.

During the 2010-11 school year, women made up 59.6 percent of Butler’s full-time undergraduate students and only 36.5 percent of athletes.

At the same time, women athletes received 53.4 percent of the department’s financial aid.

Title IX requires that the ratio of women in sports is substantially proportionate to the undergraduate enrollment.

In a situation where these numbers are not proportionate, the university can demonstrate compliance in other ways.

“Those numbers demonstrate we are not meeting the standard,” Goetz said. “But we believe our non-discriminatory factors, when considered, deem us as compliant.”

The athletics department evaluates gender equality on a regular basis. Multiple internal reviews and an outside study by Ice Miller have been conducted to validate the findings.

“We believe we offer every sport in which there is an interest and ability on campus,” Goetz said.

She said that this is the reason the department believes the Office for Civil Rights will determine that Butler is Title IX compliant.

Regardless of the numbers, Erik Fromm, junior men’s basketball player and member of the student athlete advisory council, said that the treatment of the athletes has always been equal.

“I’m just one person, and I don’t know all the numbers,” Fromm said, “but it’s never been a question of equality, not in athletics and not in academics.”

In her four years of experience, Devin Brierly, graduate student and basketball and softball player, said there was no indication of unfair treatment between males and females because of gender.

“We have always been treated very fair when it came to everything, whether it was trips and equipment or something else,” Brierly said. “It was going to be different with men’s basketball, but that’s because of what they accomplished, not anything else.”

In the 2011 fiscal year, the Office for Civil Rights received a total of 7,841 complaints about Title IX violations across the country, according to a U.S. Department of Education spokesman.

Only six of those complaints found an institution to be in violation of Title IX.

The athletics department asked why it was under review, and Goetz said it was told it was random review.

The Office for Civil Rights confirmed this and said it is trying to be proactive in guaranteeing equality for all athletes by initiating compliance reviews.

There is no official timeline for a decision from the Office for Civil Rights regarding Butler’s compliance, but Goetz said the department will continue to take the matter seriously.

“We want to provide every opportunity for every student-athlete that we can,” Goetz said. “Even without Title IX, we want to make sure everyone is treated equally and fairly.”

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