U.S. Education Department Reaches Agreement with Butler University to Resolve Title IX Athletics Compliance Review

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U.S. Education Department Reaches Agreement with Butler University to Resolve Title IX Athletics Compliance Review

May 3, 2012

The U.S. Department of Education announced today that its Office for Civil Rights has entered into a resolution agreement with Butler University in Indianapolis to resolve a compliance review that was initiated at the university. The review examined whether the institution discriminates against female students by denying them an equal opportunity to participate in intercollegiate athletics and whether the university discriminates in awarding athletic scholarships.

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX), 20 U.S.C. § 1681, and its implementing regulation, 34 C.F.R. Part 106, prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex. The university is a private, co-educational institution whose intercollegiate athletics teams compete in the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Division I.

According to data provided by Butler, during the 2010-11 school year women made up 2,267, or 59.6 percent, of the university’s full-time undergraduate students.  But, the institution’s 164 female athletes comprised only 36.5 percent of its 449 athletes. Butler’s 285 male athletes represented 63.5 percent of its athletes. During the 2010-11 academic year, the university distributed more than $3.8 million in athletic scholarships to male and female athletes. Women received 53.4 percent of this amount and men 46.6 percent.

“The many benefits that students derive from participating in athletic competition are well-documented and extend far beyond the playing field,” said Russlynn Ali, assistant secretary for the Office for Civil Rights. “In this 40th anniversary year for Title IX, a case like this reminds us how critical this statute continues to be in ensuring equal opportunity for women in education. OCR is committed to ensuring that student athletes have equal access to those benefits, including equal opportunities to participate in sports and to be awarded scholarships based on their athletic abilities. Today’s announcement is an important step in OCR’s continued efforts to work with the nation’s institutions to accomplish this result.”

According to the agreement, by Sept. 1, the university has to demonstrate that it is accommodating effectively the interests and abilities of female students in order to provide them an equal opportunity to participate in sports or, if unable to demonstrate current compliance, submit a detailed plan to OCR to accommodate effectively the interests and abilities of female students in its athletics program over the next three academic years.  The plan must include a description of interim steps that the university will take during the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 academic years to increase athletic participation opportunities for women.

With respect to scholarships, by Sept. 1, Butler must also demonstrate that during the 2011-2012 school year equal opportunities are being provided in awarding athletic scholarships to male and female athletes.  Or, if the university is unable to demonstrate this, it must submit a detailed plan to ensure that by the beginning of the 2014-2015 academic year, Butler is in full compliance with its Title IX obligation to provide athletic scholarships in a non-discriminatory manner.

The agreement makes clear that OCR does not require or encourage the elimination of any university athletic teams and that it is seeking action from the university that does not involve the elimination of athletic opportunities. The agreement also states that nothing in the agreement requires Butler to cut the amounts of athletic scholarships it offers to either sex, and that any such cuts are discouraged.

The enforcement of Title IX is a top priority of OCR.  Additional information about the office is available on its Web site at www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/index.html.