Eastern Michigan University has decided to settle a Title IX claim that alleged its budgetary decision to cut both men's and women's sports teams violated the civil rights statute. The claim had been filed against the school, its president, and its athletic director, and is another harsh example of how Title IX's requirements create absurd results for colleges across the country.
School Settles Lawsuit Claiming Discrimination for Shutting Down Sports Teams
Back in 2018, Eastern Michigan University faced a $4.5 to $5.5 million budget shortfall and decided to make some cuts to its athletics offerings. In the end, the school decided to eliminate the following teams:
- Men's swimming
- Men's diving
- Women's tennis
By cutting those programs, the school stood to save $2.4 million. The cuts impacted 58 male athletes and 25 female athletes.
Nevertheless, it was the women whose teams had been cut that filed the Title IX lawsuit against the school and its athletics department, claiming that the cuts were gender discrimination.
Central to their argument was the fact that, according to the school itself back in 2017, 60% of the student population was female at Eastern Michigan University. However, according to the U.S. Department of Education, women only comprised 44% of the school's athletic participants.
That lawsuit has settled out of court for $125,000 – a healthy chunk of the money that Eastern Michigan had saved by cutting the programs.
Two Takeaways from the Title IX Settlement
The lawsuit never went to trial, so it's hard to tell whether it would have been successful or not. However, the alleged victims of gender discrimination managed to get enough money to drop the case that it would be hard to persuade anyone that they lost.
While the settlement leaves some doubt as to whether a court and a jury would have been persuaded by the claims in it, there are still two takeaways to be had.
1. Title IX Has Tied the Hands of Schools
Eastern Michigan couldn't cut women's athletic programs without triggering a lawsuit. Even though its cuts would have impacted more than twice as many men as women, the women still considered it discriminatory because it cut sporting opportunities for women at all. It seems as if any budget cut that impacts both men and women are going to lead to a Title IX lawsuit.
2. Schools are Scared of Title IX
It seems as if Eastern Michigan would have had a strong defense to the lawsuit. They had a budget shortfall and had to make big decisions. They cut far more spots for male athletes than female athletes.
Nevertheless, the school decided to settle the claim for a six-figure amount rather than take it any closer to trial than they had to. After all, if Eastern Michigan was found to have discriminated against women, they could see their federal funding get cut.
Title IX Defense Lawyer Joseph D. Lento
Forbidding gender discrimination in higher education is an honorable goal. Scaring colleges into settling weak claims of discrimination and keeping them from protecting their budgets is not how to do it.
Joseph D. Lento is a Title IX defense lawyer. Contact him online or call his law office at (888) 535-3686.