St Cloud State womens tennis players file suit seeking injunction to bar elimination of their sport:
SCSU tennis players sue over Title IX
Five members of the St. Cloud State University women's tennis team have sued the university, alleging that the university for years has offered more athletic opportunities for men than for women.
The lawsuit comes two months after the university announced that it was cutting six of its athletics programs — from 23 to 17 — at the end of this academic year. The budget-cutting move also saw reductions in rosters for seven sports, while rosters of six sports will increase.
In addition to alleging violations of Title IX, the lawsuit also asks a federal judge to issue an injunction preventing the university from eliminating the women's tennis team or any other athletic opportunities for women at St. Cloud State until the lawsuit is resolved.
Women's tennis is one of the six programs scheduled for elimination. The tennis players who sued, five of the six underclassmen on the team, are asking for class action status and the ability to represent "all current, prospective and future female students" who want to play tennis or other sports eliminated or not offered at St. Cloud State.
The cuts announced in March, along with roster management, will get the university into Title IX compliance, President Earl H. Potter III said at a news conference where the budget reductions were announced. He stressed that the cuts were for financial reasons, not to achieve Title IX compliance.
The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court accuses the university of having at least 116 more athletic opportunities for men than for women during each of the last 12 years, based on data that St. Cloud State reported to the U.S. Department of Education. It says St. Cloud State had 124 more athletic opportunities for men than for women last academic year even though the undergraduate student enrollment showed male and female enrollment was nearly identical — 4,492 male students to 4,488 female students.
The gap between male and female athletic opportunities has swelled to as high as 179 during the last 12 years, the lawsuit alleges. It accuses St. Cloud State during that period of denying 1,759 women athletic opportunities because of their gender.
St. Cloud State declined to comment on pending litigation, said university spokesman Adam Hammer. The university will be filing a response to the lawsuit in the coming days, Hammer said.
The lawsuit also names a second defendant, the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system.
The players who sued are Alexie Portz, Jill Kedrowski, Abigail Kantor, Marilla Roque Diversi and Fernanda Quintino Dos Santos.
The university also plans to eliminate men's tennis, women's Nordic skiing, men's cross country and both indoor and outdoor men's track and field.
The sports reductions are designed to save about $250,000 for the fiscal year, or about 5 percent of the general fund allocation for athletics. The department anticipates a $500,000 shortfall this fiscal year.
The cuts were in response to a $9 million overall university budget shortfall.
The lawsuit said the university needs to cut men's sports opportunities or add opportunities for women, but shouldn't cut athletics for women. It also accuses St. Cloud State of over-reporting the number of women participating in athletics and under-reporting the number of men participating.
"Thus, both the current and historic gaps in athletic participation opportunities offered to male students versus female students are higher than" the numbers reported to the Department of Education, the lawsuit alleges.
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The school could easily have refrained from giving 11 more scholarships to the womens track team while retaining the tennis squad. Five scholarships would get the job done, the balance saved would be used to pay the coach.