- Sexual Harassment Roundup
- Recent cases of convenient equality
- Nine Public Universities in Pennsylvania Named in Title IX Complaints
- Complaint to DoJ challenges OCR's handling of athletics complaints
- FSU--the internal and external
- University of Oklahoma Investigates Accusations of Sexual Assault by Football Player
- Shortcomings Revealed in Mizzou's Response to Sexual Assault
- Testosterone Discrimination in Women's Sports
- More staff to OCR?
- Oregon university denying transgender student housing
- More exposed in FSU/Jameis Winston case
- Texas School District Resolves Title IX Complaint
- Title IX Complaint Filed Against Beaverton, Oregon School District
- Equality brackets
- More Thoughts on the Title IX Question in Pay-for-Play
- What Effect Will the NLRB Decision Have on Title IX?
- NYT Editorial Addresses "Pay for Play" and Title IX
- Yearbook discrimination
- Expelled Student's Case Against Xavier Survives Motion to Dismiss
- Title IX and Female Athletes' Preference for Male Coaches
- Sexual Assault Problem at Patrick Henry College Is Outside the Scope of Title IX
- Denison University Faces Investigation of Athletics Inequity
- High School Coach's Haircut Policy Violates Title IX
- Sexual Assault Lawsuit Filed Against Boise State
- Lawsuit Seeks Injunction of Campus SaVE Act
Here are summaries of several recent judicial decisions applying Title IX to sexual assault and sexual harassment: The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower courts decision (which we blogged about here) to dismiss Title IX claims against St. Louis University on summary judgment. The plaintiff, a female student-athlete, alleged that the university responded with deliberate indifference after she reported to campus officials that she had been sexually assaulted at an off-campus party. But the court determined that the universitys response was adequate. An athletics administrator set up a meeting with the student as soon as she learned about the assault. The administrator offered her support and instructed her on how to file a complaint, though the student declined to do so. Later, the students father reported the assault to the campus police, who immediately commenced an investigation as well as cooperated in separate investigation by St. Louis police. The court rejected the plaintiffs argument that the administrator should have involved the Title IX Coordinator, as OCR requires, by affirming that the "deliberate indifference" standard that applies to civil lawsuits for money damages is not the same as the regulatory standard of compliance that applies to administrative actions. The court also agreed with the district court that Title IX did not apply to this off-campus party because that situation was outside of the universitys control. Yet given that the rapist turned out the be a student, and the ramifications of the rape followed the victim back to campus, I think the universitys jurisdiction was clear. Roe v. St. Louis University, 2014 WL 1181097 (Mar. 25, 2014). A federal district court in Pennsylvania dismissed Title IX claims against East Stroudsburg University alleging that officials there could have protected male students who worked in the universitys development office from sexual harassment by their supervisor, Issac Sanders. The student plaintiffs alleged that university officials were on notice of sexual improprieties committed by Sanders prior to the first students filing of an official complaint against him in 2007. However, despite the plaintiffs allegation that Sanders had a reputation for inappropriate sexual relationships with the male student-workers, the plaintiffs could not point to anything specific and credible known by university officials that should have triggered an earlier response. Moreover, the court agreed with the university that officials responded appropriately after they received the first official complaint against Sanders. Though the court dismissed the plaintiffs Title IX claims against the university, it did allow separate claims against Sanders on other grounds to move forward. Bernard v. East Stroudsburg University, 2014 WL 1454913 (E.D. Pa. Apr. 14, 2014). A federal district court in Pennsylvania denied a school districts motion to dismiss the Title IX claim of a female high school student arising from her sexual assault by a male Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) instructor. The court agreed that she sufficiently alleged the school district to have had actual knowledge that the instructor posed a substantial danger to students because the school district had received five complaints in the past from students alleging that he had subjected them to sexual harassment and sexual misconduct. Additionally the plaintiff adequately alleged that officials failure to discipline, train, or monitor the instructor amounted to deliberate indifference. Doe v. Boyertown Area Sch. Dist., 2014 WL 1281125 (E.D. Pa. Mar. 28, 2014). A female middle school students claim that the Breathitt County Board of Education is liable under Title IX for the sexual advances of her male teacher survived the boards motion for summary judgment. The federal district court in Kentucky determined the plaintiff presented sufficient evidence that school officials had actual knowledge that the teacher posed a substantial risk of sexual harassment to female students, including that they knew he had exchanged many text messages of a personal nature with other female students. The court also believed a jury could find that the school boards decision to rehire him amounted to deliberate indifference. Thorpe v. Breathitt County Bd. of Educ., 2014 WL 1101035 (E.D. Ky. Mar. 21, 2014).
With the state of amateurism in college sports under threat (i.e., the lawsuits by current and former college athletes seeking various kinds of compensation for their efforts), policymakers and keepers are somewhat panicked about what this could cost. The NCAA, of course, has been putting considerable efforts into countering claims that student athletes are anything but students. Earlier this month, Republican Senators Lamar Alexander and Richard Burr helped them out by invoking a gender equality discourse to claim that it would be impossible to pay student athletes like they were employees--a fear that has been amplified with the National Labor Relations Board ruling that the football players (scholarship only) at Northwestern University do meet the definition of employees and thus could unionize. "What is going to happen to the smaller schools? What is going to happen to the minor sports? What is going to happen to the Title IX womens sports if, for some reason, a union forces universities to have a much more expensive athletic program for a few sports?" Alexander said on the Senate floor. First of all, there are no "Title IX womens sports"--thats not a thing. Second, once again we have the ever-so-unhelpful football/basketball versus everyone else binary with Title IX as the perceived divider. Except this time Title IX is being invoked in a positive way by people who are not womens sports advocates or feminists. How long will the Title IX love last? Until the next attempt to weaken the law and make it more amenable to schools that would like to funnel more resources into major sports and not have to balance this with the needs of female student athletes? Next, last week, Judge Claudia Wilken, a US District judge, made a significant ruling in the now five-year long case initially brought by former UCLA basketball player Ed OBannon (now a class-action lawsuit) in which the plaintiffs are seeking an end to the NCAAs rule that student athletes cannot make money off of their likeness, image, and name. Judge Wilken ruled on the summary judgment requests of both the NCAA and the plaintiffs (she granted it to neither, the trial should begin in early June) but said that the NCAA could not present as an argument that paying athletes (which the NCAA argues is part of the end of amateurism that would come with athletes who make money from their status) would harm womens sports. It was a win for the plaintiffs. And its a little bit of equality karma. From the Courthouse News Service: The NCAA could support womens sports and less prominent mens sports in other, less restrictive ways, Wilken said. "For instance, the NCAA could mandate that Division I schools and conferences redirect a greater portion of the licensing revenue generated by football and basketball to these other sports," Wilken wrote. "The NCAA has not explained why it could not adopt more stringent revenue-sharing rules," the judge wrote, granting the athletes summary judgment on that issue. "The challenged restraint is not justified by the NCAAs claimed desire to support womens sports or less prominent mens sports." Both of these examples illustrate an unfortunate trend that occurs outside of sports all the time: when it serves the needs of various institutions, fairness and equality for women gets invoked. When fairness and equality are less convenient, less beneficial, more costly the latter is emphasized over the former. The discourse remains inconsistent as do the actions of the fair-weather (which only seems to come when theres something afoul in mens sports) advocates.
The Pennsylvania-based Womens Law Project has filed complaints with the Department of Educations Office for Civil Rights charging nine of the states public universities with violating Title IX for offering disproportionately low number of athletic opportunities to female students. The complaints target the state universities at Bloomsburg, Cheyney, Clarion, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millerville and Shippensburg. Title IX requires that colleges and universities provide an equitable number of athletic opportunities to male and female students, which they can demonstrate in one of three ways, one of which is a proportionality test. The WLPs complaints allege, however, that the percentage of athletic opportunities available to women is lower than the percentage of students who are female, with gaps averaging from 7 to almost 15 percent. Collectively, the system would have to offer 900 more athletic opportunities in order to provide female students the same opportunities for athletic participation. The second way to demonstrate compliance is to show a "history and continuing practice" of expanding opportunities for the underrepresented sex, i.e., women. Yet, the complaints show that these schools have not added opportunities for women in recent years. At Millersville, the percentage of opportunities to women increased, but this was only because the school eliminated some opportunities for men. This does not qualify as expanding opportunities for women. The third way to demonstrate compliance is to show that the athletic opportunities available to the underrepresented sex are sufficient to satisfy their interests and abilities. To this end, the complaints present allegations that vary by school, but include one or more of the following: club teams that have not been elevated to varsity status, the absence of teams for women in sports that are sponsored by the league to which the school belongs, the lack of any process for evaluating womens interests in other sports that are not offered, or a disproportionately low budget for recruiting for womens sports. It is now up to the OCR whether to open investigation at any or all of these nine schools.
The Title IX Blog has received a copy of a complaint filed with the Department of Justice alleging Title IX violations in the athletic programs at ten California colleges and universities. This complaint is interesting to us because in addition to challenging programmatic inequities at those schools, it calls into question the method by which the Office for Civil Rights San Francisco office is handling Title IX complaints alleging violations of the three-part test. According to the DoJ complaint, OCR-San Francisco received complaints in January of this year alleging that 121 California colleges and universities violated Title IX in the distribution of athletic opportunities to male and female students. The complaint used publicly-available information to adequately allege the institutions noncompliance with part one and part two of the three-part test. Specifically, the complaints alleged that athletic opportunities were not distributed proportionately to the gender breakdown of the student body (part one) and that athletic opportunities had not increased for women in a sufficiently recent period of time (part two). Yet, OCR determined that the complainant had not sufficiently alleged that the colleges and universities had failed to satisfy the interests and abilities of the underrepresented sex, in violation of part three of the test. The agency said it would dismiss the complaints unless the complainant provided more detailed information demonstrating unmet interest. For ten of the 121 institutions named in the initial complaint -- Point Loma College, Southwestern College, Pasadena College, CSU-Bakersfield, Oxnard College, El Camino College, Moor Park College, UC-Santa Barbara, UC-Berkeley, and Pepperdine University -- the complainant provided responsive information in the form of media accounts from 2004 to 2012 detailing those institutions decisions to eliminate viable intercollegiate womens teams. Yet despite the fact that eliminated teams have been held to demonstrate unmet interest, the OCR rejected this evidence as well, this time, on grounds of timeliness. After unsuccessfully seeking the OCRs reconsideration of this decision, the complainant has taken the unusual step of bringing the matter to another agency with Title IX enforcement authority, the Department of Justice. Ive earlier criticized the OCR for its quick dismissal of so-called mass complaints. I understand that it may be technically infeasible for the agency to open 121 investigations simultaneously, but requiring detailed information about the presence of unmet interest puts too high a burden on the complainant. Compliance with part three requires schools to actively and continuously evaluate the level of interest among the underrepresented sex. Any school that is relying on part three as its method of compliance should be able to quickly and easily respond to request from OCR to show the information they are relying on in making that evaluation. That is why Ive argued the proper response to a mass complaint should be for the agency to request that information from institutions named in the complaint, and then proceed accordingly based on the information received. Given my view that the OCR already goes too far in dismissing mass complaints that dont provide specific evidence of noncompliance with part three, I am even more outraged by the agencys unwillingness to consider complaints against a narrower range of institutions, as it was presented in this case, which have demonstrably created unmet interest by eliminating womens teams sometime in the last ten years. No, that doesnt conclusively prove that unmet interest presently exists but it certainly creates a realistic basis for that highly likely possibility. In my opinion, OCR should have certainly opened investigation of those ten institutions, even if it was unwilling to respond to the original complaint of 121. I hope that DoJ opens an investigation against the California Ten, and in so doing, demonstrates to OCR-San Francisco the proper handling of Title IX complaints.
This weeks theme: mishandled investigations into sexual assault and the investigations that uncover these mishandlings. The findings that University of Missouri did not appropriately deal with an allegation of sexual assault from earlier this week have been followed by an in-depth piece by Walt Bogdanich at the _New York Times_ about the way in which police in Tallahassee, Florida basically botched the investigation of Jameis Winston who was accused by a (now former) student of sexual assault. (MSNBCs _Last Word_ also ran a story with a helpful timeline of the events.) These are two different realms, for Title IX purposes at least. The Mizzou report detailed the failures of that institution. The NYT detailed the failures of the police. The latter does not have Title IX implications. It does, however, shed some light on the power of football culture and the way it affects the campus climate. Bagdanichs piece only briefly touched on the response by Florida State. But an article in todays _USA Today_, notes the failures of the university to initiate an investigation into the alleged sexual assault, which should have been triggered when a campus police officer responded to the 911 call made on behalf of the woman who alleges Winston raped her in December 2012. Some of the missteps of the Tallahassee police lead Winston to quickly hire a lawyer which has lead to him being pretty tight-lipped about the events of that night. But that does not mean, as both Erin and I told Rachel Axon of _USA Today_, that the university can simply drop an investigation because Winston is refusing to cooperate. Not pursuing a judicial case against Winston both compounds the fact that the school did not initiate an investigation in a timely manner, contributes to their liability and, I would argue, contributes to a hostile campus climate. First, we have not seen evidence--even in the wake of a complaint filed with OCR--that FSU is even attempting to make things better. Schools do respond differently when news arrives that a complaint has been filed about their handling of sexual assault cases. But many have at least made efforts to prove to their own community and the public that they are moving towards making things better, whether by forming internal committees to assess policies, holding public forums, hiring experts, conducting reviews, etc. But FSU does not seem to be holding either itself or Winston accountable or least trying to assess accountability. The issue of "cooperation" is moot here. No student who was, for example, brought before a campus judicial board on charges of violating the schools alcohol policy would be allowed to not cooperate with an investigation. He would be punished--perhaps even expelled. Second, by failing to thoroughly investigate this incident, FSU has set itself up for further problems. What if Winston re-offends? He is a walking liability. I might even go so far as to suggest that if any other football player commits a similar act, one could claim that the universitys failure to reprimand football players created a culture in which sexual assault was allowed to continue. This touches on my last point: campus climate. The NYT found that FSU has reported only 14 sexual assaults on campus in three years (2010-2012 data). I find this almost impossible to believe. What is happening at FSU? There could be some Clery Act violations occurring. At the high end of the chart (of large, public, 4-year institutions) in the NYT piece is Berkeley with 83 reported assaults. Notably, Cal has been accused of Clery Act violations. And/or the climate at FSU could be one in which reporting sexual assaults is discouraged by peers (look at all the hatred directed at Winstons accuser), by residential life staff, counselors, administrators, deans--any place along the institutional hierarchy. My hope is that the OCR investigation will reveal some of these things. Meanwhile, the lack of transparency on the part of the university has been troubling. Now that the police investigation into the mishandling of the case has been exposed, I think that the university can no longer hide its own mistakes in dealing (or not) with this case. Right now it appears that they are taking a defensive stance and waiting for OCR to expose them.
The University of Oklahoma is taking its turn in the Title IX spotlight as news comes to light about a students allegations that she was sexually assaulted by OU linebacker Frank Shannon in January. The local police had received a report of the alleged assault when it happened, and made a decision "weeks ago" not to criminally prosecute Shannon. But the University has reportedly conducted its own investigation, as it is required by law to do. According to the investigation report, prepared by the universitys Sexual Misconduct Office, the student alleges that Shannon, whom she knew, offered her a ride home after a party, but took her to his apartment instead. She says that once they were inside his bedroom, he pulled her pants down and tried to force her to have sex. Shannon denies the allegations and says that she laid on top of him, kissed him, and removed her own clothes, but then they had an argument and she left while he was in the bathroom. University officials have not commented specifically on its next steps. But the _Oklahoman_ newspaper reports that the typical process is for the universitys student conduct office to provide copies of the report to the accused student and the complainant (no word on how the newspaper also got to see a copy). The student conduct office meets with the accused student and recommends sanctions. Those recommendations can be appealed to a disciplinary panel, whose decisions can also be appealed. It is also reported that Shannon did not practice with the team on Thursday or participate in last weekends spring game.
Officials at the University of Missouri have acknowledged that they "did not follow proper Title IX guidelines" in handling information about the possible 2010 sexual assault of Sasha Menu Corey, a student-athlete who later committed suicide. Earlier this year, an ESPN report about her story raised the possibility that the University had reason to believe Menu Corey had been sexually assaulted and should have investigated the matter while she was alive, or, at the latest, when news reports about her suicide raised the possibility that sexual assault had played a role in her deteriorating mental health. In response, the University hired an outside law firm to investigate and evaluate its own response. The law firms investigation, which recently concluded, affirms that the posthumous news reports mentioning sexual assault should have triggered an institutional response, but the absence of sufficient Title IX policies prevented that from happening. At the same time, however, the investigation did not reveal that the university had sufficient information about the alleged sexual assault to have responded while Menu Corey was alive. The only university officials that the investigators could conclusively determine that she told about the assault were health care providers who have a duty to protect patient confidentiality and, as a result, do not have the same duty as other university employees to report such information. The outside investigators could not confirm that Menu Corey had told an athletics department official named Meghan Anderson, as has been suggested by an entry inn Menu Coreys diary. Anderson denies that Menu Corey told her about a sexual assault, and the investigators report suggests the circumstances of the phone call between Menu Corey and Anderson could have resulted in a miscommunication on that point, given that Anderson spoke to Menu Corey on her cell phone call while in a noisy restaurant. For its part, the University has vowed to improve its Title IX policies and improve its response to sexual assault. It has also reportedly apologized to Menu Coreys parents.
An op-ed in last weeks New York Times by Katrina Karkazis and Rebecca Jordan-Young provides an early glimpse of what could be the next wave of sex discrimination in womens sports: testosterone discrimination. As the scholars explain, the International Olympic Committee and other international sport governing bodies implemented new rules that require female athletes whose bodies naturally produce high levels of testosterone to undergo hormonal and surgical "therapy" in order to compete. According to a new study, this new policy has already subjected four female athletes -- all from developing countries, it seems relevant to note -- to invasive examinations and surgery (including "partially removing their clitorises") that even the performing doctors deemed had "no medical reason." Only after they had undergone these procedures were the athletes allowed to return to competition, a year later. Karkazis and Jordan-Young point out that there are many naturally-occurring conditions that can lead to high testosterone, and refute the perception that screening is necessary to ensure fairness in womens competition. They cite to research findings in which testosterone levels failed to predict athletic performance, as well as those of "significant overlap" between testosterone levels of men and women. (16.5% of elite male athletes studied had testosterone in the so-called "female" range; while 14% of female athletes had testosterone levels above that range.) If testosterone is like other bodily characteristics that vary within the population, even within each sex, and is not a predictor of athletic performance, then the IOCs policy indeed appears "untenable" -- as Karkazis and Jordan-Young call it -- and also discriminatory. At the moment (fortunately), these issues do not directly impact Title IX. We know of no schools that are testing (cisgender) female athletes for naturally occurring testosterone and subjecting them to heinous treatment as a condition for participation. But many U.S. organizations -- including some that govern athletics in the scholastic context -- look up to the IOC and see its policies as a model to be emulated without critical evaluating the policy or its application to a markedly different population of athletes. For example, one state high school athletic association currently (and two in the past) uses the IOCs policy governing transgender participation, even though its requirement of surgery and two years of hormone treatment is virtually certain to exclude all transgender athletes of high school age. Womens sports advocates must be vigilant to ensure the IOCs testosterone policy does not similarly creep into schools. See also: Womens Sports Foundations position paper on intersex athletes.
We hope so! Democratic Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Claire McCaskill have sent a letter, signed by a handful of other Democratic senators, requesting an increase in staffing at the Office of Civil Rights, specifically to investigate complaints about sexual assault on college campuses. They are asking for additions to the 12-person staff that currently is responsible for investigating Clery Act complaints. This increase in staffing would seem more than appropriate given the recent expansion of the Clery Act to require colleges and universities to report additional crimes. Also, as many of us know, OCR seems desperately understaffed. This impedes their ability to investigate both Title IX and Clery Act complaints about sexual assault (which continues to constitute a minority of the annual complaints but is growing at an exponential pace). The Senators are requesting $2 million to cover the costs of hiring and training 13 employees who would be tasked with investigating complaints regarding sexual assault. Gillibrand and McCaskill have chosen an opportune time to make the request given the growing profile of these cases, their numbers, and the likelihood that they will continue to grow. Still, I would expect that granting their request is guaranteed.
In a decision that looks like it will not stand based on both state and federal discrimination laws, George Fox University has said it will not provide housing to "Jayce M.", a transgender man who would like to live with his male friends in on-campus in his junior year. The Christian school does not currently have a policy addressing gender, but this situation has inspired them to write one that will say that students will be housed based on their biological sex. And though the school has met with Jayce, his mother, and other advocates for his cause, school administrators have not changed their position about on-campus housing. Additionally, in order to receive special permission to live off-campus (presumably all undergraduates are required to live on-campus with special exemptions offered), the school is requiring documentation that Jayce legally change his name, his drivers license, his birth certificate, and tell all his potential roommates and their parents that he is transgender. The school eventually backed off of the birth certificate issue (Jayce was born in Tennessee which does not allow changes to birth certificates for transgender people,) and the obligation to tell roommates and their parents (privacy rights). Because none of these options are viable, fair, or legal, Jayce and his lawyer have initiated a Title IX lawsuit against the school. The universitys stance also appears to violate Oregons anti-discrimination statutes. Neither the latter nor Title IX provide exemptions for religiously affiliated schools when it comes to issues of housing.
In December, I expressed some curiosity/skepticism about the timing of the results of the police and DA investigation into the sexual assault allegations against Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston. Though they did come out before the national championship and did not seem to negatively affect Winston, who also won the Heisman Trophy, the results were in his favor. At that point it seemed the criminal investigation was over. There was not, we were told, enough evidence to prove that the sexual encounter between Winston and the accuser was not consensual. There was no surprise in February when news came of a Title IX case against the university because of its handling of the allegation by a now former FSU student (she left the university) that Winston raped her in December 2012. We had predicted that in December (2013) as well. And now it is of little surprise that the investigating didnt seem to be as over as we thought it was. Deadspin has broken the news that _the university_, pursued an investigation into code of conduct violations in relation to the incident in January of this year. Administrators interviewed Winston and two of his teammates. The findings? That the two teammates who had witnessed the sexual act had violated the code of conduct. There were no findings against Winston who refused to cooperate--on advice of his lawyers--with the team of university officials undertaking the investigation. The team took the tactic of educating Winston about consent and other issues such as alcohol impairment. Code of conduct violations could still be brought against Winston if further information comes to light. Here is what the investigation and the exposure of its findings suggest: That FSU felt external pressure to conduct an investigation and, more importantly, to come up with some wrongdoing. So Winstons teammates have become the scapegoats. This is not to say that what they did was right or not in violation of the code of conduct. [Both have been found to engage in "conduct of a sexual nature that creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment for another person" and "acts that invade the privacy of another person." One of the two men also was charged with "recording images without consent" when he filmed Winston and the accuser having sex after being denied the opportunity to participate. The video and the phone have both allegedly been trashed.] But, at this point, the findings are minor in contrast to the allegations and again largely serve to illustrate the fact that FSU _did_ conduct an investigation. But if the investigation was an attempt at protecting the university from the pending Title IX lawsuit, it is a failed attempt. Doing an investigation does not mean they complied with Title IX. Again, we have to look at timing. A January 2014 investigation into an event that occurred in the fall of 2012 falls outside the mandated 60-day timeline. FSU is no longer receiving the benefit of my doubt about the timing of investigations and the release of information and more questions than ever have been raised. Two troubling things remain, in my mind. One, what is FSU going to do about the tight-lipped, lawyered-up Winston? Doesnt failure to comply with a school investigation violate the code of conduct? Again, we see a battle between campus judicial procedures and the legal system. Might some of this been avoided if FSU _had _complied with Title IX and done this investigation in the legally mandated 60-day time frame? Finally, the two players with code of conduct violations. Though they are not the center of attention in this case, their fates are of interest and speak to the culture of football and the climate at FSU. Right now they are still listed as members of the team and as students at the university even though it is well within the rights of the university to issue interim sanctions while the men wait for their university hearing on the charges from which punishments ranging from "letter of reprimand" to expulsion could be issued. So where are these men? Who are they being allowed to interact with? Are they still practicing with the team? Are they (will they) being kept on because they good? Are they being kept on to ensure--if expulsion occurs--they leave the university in good academic standing at the end of the semester so as not to lower the teams Academic Progress Rate (a measure that can determine post-season play)? If expelled, will another school gladly take them in, history and all? If FSU was hoping for an end, this is not it.
Last spring we blogged about a Title IX complaint filed by a coach against the Longview (Texas) Independent School District, alleging inequitable athletic opportunities for girls at Longview High School. We recently learned that the school district has entered into a voluntary agreement (.pdf) with the Department of Educations Office for Civil Rights resolving the issues raised in the complaint. As a result of the agreement, OCR will not need to complete its investigation or make any formal findings with respect to Longviews compliance with Title IX. However, it appears from the information they already gathered that OCR would have likely found some violations. For instance, as the OCR noted in its letter to the complainant (.pdf), the district offered over twice as many athletic opportunities to boys than to girls, had not added a new sport for girls in at least twenty years, and had no process or procedure for gauging whether the opportunities that were available for girls were satisfying the interests and abilities of the underrepresented sex. As a result, OCR probably would have found that Longview did not comply with Title IXs three-part test for measuring equity in the number of athletic opportunities for each sex. Appropriately, the district has agreed to address this problem by assessing whether its female students have an interest in new sports that are not currently offered, or in having more teams in sports that are already offered, and to add new opportunities accordingly. OCRs investigation had also already revealed some disparities in the quality of athletic facilities available to students of each sex. In particular, the OCR noted disparities between baseball and softball facilities, which were the only ones used exclusively by students of one sex. Unlike the softball field, the baseball field has bathrooms, a press box, a sound system, and a concession stand. The baseball field also has fancier dugouts and batting cages than those at the softball field. Notably, the school district has agreed to remedy these disparities by March 1, 2015 The district has also agreed to assess the assignment and compensation of coaches and the availability of equipment and supplies to ensure that any disparities between girls and boys teams are not the result of discrimination. All of the school districts obligations under the agreement are subject to OCRs monitoring and oversight.
The Beaverton (Oregon) School District has been named in an anonymous Title IX complaint challenging gender inequality in the number of athletic opportunities at the districts five high schools. According to the complaint, none of the schools offer athletic opportunities proportionate to enrollment, nor can show a history of improving opportunities for underrepresented girls, nor are they offering all of the sports sanctioned by states athletic association (suggesting probable unmet interest). It is now up to the Department of Educations Office for Civil Rights to decide whether these allegations are sufficient to warrant investigation. OCR has been inconsistent about whether to open an investigation based on similarly-structured allegations in other complaints. Sometimes, particularly in the context of "mass complaints" that OCR sometimes receives, it requires a more specific allegation of unmet interest As Ive said before, I believe that standard puts too much burden on complainants, and I hope that OCR declines to use it in the context of a complaint targeting a single school district. In addition to dealing with the OCR, Beaverton School District also has to respond to parents advocating for equal treatment of girls teams. Some mothers of middle school softball players complained recently to the school board about inferior playing facilities available to girls at Beavertons Westview High School. The softball field at Westview lacks electricity, which limits the fundraising potential of the concession stand and makes it difficult to plug in a pitching machine. Coaches must bring in a generator to run batting practice. Additionally the softball teams batting cages are not enclosed by walls and the field does not have a working scoreboard. In contrast, the boys baseball field is wired for electricity, and has fully enclosed batting cages and a new scoreboard. The mothers have asked the district to move quickly on the matter of electricity, and to put in place a plan for resolving the other issues.
At the start of this years March Madness, _Mother Jones_ published a mens bracket that determined winners based on the spending each school does on womens sports as a percentage of mens sports. They asked the big what-if: does spending more on womens sports lead to tournament success? American University came out the winner (116%) barely beating out cross-town rival George Washington; and Stanford was the best in the BCS (63%). Im not sure if Mother Jones was attempting a correlation here. If so, there was no argument to that effect. But it does raise an interesting question about whether spending on womens sports can also be beneficial to mens teams. We would have to approach this question with a paradigm based in social sciences and cultural studies research over a purely economic model and look at factors such as athletic department unity, the effect of perceived fairness, level of sex segregation across athletics departments, etc. What I was curious about was why there was not a _womens_ bracket that shows the same figures. This would allow those who enjoy some quantitative with their qualitative to examine the outcomes when the tournament has concluded. Other imaginary brackets that are produced at this time of the year includes ones that use APR to consider the relationship of academic success with sport success. The APR, Academic Progress Rate, was established by the NCAA in 2004 and is calculated for Division I institutions. The academic progress of scholarship athletes is calculated on a team. That teams APR must meet an NCAA established minimum in order for--in part--the team to compete in post-season play. The APR was created and is maintained to address issues of athlete education. Heres the imaginary bracket I would like to see. Actually, scratch that. What I would like to see is a real commitment to gender equity by the NCAA comparable to the one it has made to the education of student athletes. How about post-season play based on Title IX compliance? It seems like such a swing back from where the NCAA is now given that the organization is no longer engaging in accreditation (which included an assessment of gender equity). How would such a system affect the real brackets?
Yesterday I posted about why Title IXs equal treatment mandate would require schools to provide female athletes with the same benefits they award to male players via collective bargaining. To make my point, I used the example of extended health insurance, because that is the benefit that the football players have stated is the purpose of their efforts to unionize. I think that the same analysis would apply even if the bargained-for benefit is salaried compensation. And contrary to what other commentators have stated, I do not think that the revenue-producing nature of the sport is the basis for a distinction. Heres why: Because when it comes to the treatment of student-athletes, the revenue-producing nature of the sport has _already been_ rejected as the basis for unequal treatment among male and female athletes. A school could not decide to provide better locker rooms, or more quality coaching staff, or disproportionately high scholarship dollars, or any other benefit to football players on the grounds that football derives revenue and other sports dont. That is well-settled, "black letter" Title IX law. So the revenue argument would not justify providing extended health insurance to players of one sex. Nor should it justify providing salaried compensation to players of one sex. Many have pointed out that there is case law holding that it is not a a violation of the Equal Pay Act to use revenue as the basis on which to pay one coach more than another for otherwise similar work. In particular, folks have pointed to Stanley v. USC, 178 F.3d 1069 (9th Cir. June 2, 1999). In that case, the court rejected a female coachs Equal Pay Act claim after finding that the male coachs capacity for revenue made the jobs dissimilar, such that the plaintiff failed in her burden of showing that she was paid less for substantially similar job. Say what you will about Stanley (many think the court got it wrong, since the capacity for revenue is not in the coachs control, but a function of societys preferences for mens sports). But regardless, I dont think Stanley settles the question as it relates to student compensation. I have two reasons: First, the proper reading of Stanley is a narrow one. The EEOC has, since that case, issued guidance that suggests revenue-generation can only be used as a defense to salary differential between male and female coaches when "the woman is not given the equivalent support to enable her to raise revenue." I would argue that there are few womens teams that receive equivalent support to mens football. Second, and by far the more important reason, is that Title IX, through its implementing regulations, contains a clear equal treatment mandate that applies to students, and not to coaches. Importantly, that equal treatment mandate is the basis for my argument, above, that Title IX requires schools to match whatever benefit it extends to male students to female students as well. Because no similar mandate applies to coaches, it is simply not relevant that courts have concluded that coaches can be paid dissimilarly on the grounds of revenue. I therefore think that schools cannot pay athletes of one sex and refuse to pay athletes of another sex -- even if the distinction they are making is the athletes capacity for revenue.
Yesterday a regional director of the National Labor Relations Board ruled that Northwestern University football players were "employees" within the meaning of the National Labor Relations Act, and, accordingly, have the right to elect a union to engage in collective bargaining on their behalf. The decision focused on the ways in which football players are subject to the control of the university, which make them unlike other students at Northwestern and similar to employees in other contexts who are subject to their bosses control. The decision also examined the job-like time commitment football players make to their sport, and the nature of football players scholarships, which, awarded entirely on the basis of "football prowess," operate like compensation -- another hallmark of the employer-employee relationship. Northwestern reportedly has plans to appeal the decision, which could be overturned if not by the full board of the NLRB, then by the federal courts (including, potentially, the Supreme Court). If it is upheld, however, it would mean that football players at Northwestern as well as similar programs at other private institutions would be able to vote for union representation. And even though a decision under the National Labor Relations Act does not apply directly to public employers, it is possible that state schools, to remain competitive for top players, would essentially match whatever benefits the private school players unions have successfully bargained for. The ripple effect from this decision, if it is upheld, is to potentially up-end the NCAAs amateurism paradigm throughout college athletics. What is the effect on Title IX from all of this? I believe that if the decision results in actual bargained-for benefits for student-athletes of one sex, Title IX would continue to require that such benefits inure equally to student-athletes of the other sex. Imagine that, for example, a football players union succeeds in bargaining for extended health insurance -- the Northwestern football players stated objective. It would clearly violate Title IX if that benefit only applied to male athletes and not female athletes -- even though the male athletes bargained for it and the female athletes did not. Title IX regulations require schools to provide equal treatment in the aggregate to its mens and womens programs, as measured by a "laundry list" of factors that expressly includes access to medical services, which has been interpreted to include "the equivalence for men and women of...health, accident and injury insurance coverage." Two days ago, it would have clearly violated Title IX for Northwestern to have decided on its own to grant extended health coverage to some of its male athletes but none of its female athletes. And there is nothing in yesterdays decision that changes that analysis under Title IX. The fact that male athletes obtained the benefit through collective bargaining is beside the point; it does not absolve the university of having to ensure equal treatment under Title IX. In similar fashion, universities cant absolve their obligation to provide equal treatment by pointing to _other _external forces, either, such as a booster club that only gives money to one sex. The universitys obligations under the NLRA apply _in addition_ to its obligations under Title IX; the latter is not supplanted by the former. This outcome will surely seem weird to many people, and for good reason, I think. Surely Congress when it passed the NLRA (in 1935) and Title IX (in 1972) never imagined that an educational institution would be subject to both laws simultaneously with respect to its student athletes. But thats the consequence of having ones cake and eating it too, by which I mean running a profit-seeking business enterprise while receiving federal support and non-profit status. With the latter comes the obligation to comply with civil rights laws like Title IX. And now, with the former, comes the obligation to comply with employment and labor law as well, meaning, having to collectively bargain with employees, as well as pay minimum wage, workers compensation, payroll taxes, and the like. If college athletic departments like Northwesterns insist on straddling the line, they will be subject to both laws. Alternatively, they can choose one paradigm or the other, _BUSINESS _or _EDUCATION_. In the _BUSINESS _paradigm, athletic departments would have no obligation to comply with Title IX, and would be subject only to the demands of the market in determining which athletes to compensate and how much. But the price of that freedom is no more federal funding, and no tax-exempt status. Alternatively, in the _EDUCATION _paradigm, athletic departments would continue to benefit from federal funding and tax-exempt status. But the price of this public support is no more running an athletic department as profit-seeking enterprise; athletics would truly have to be an extracurricular activity, not tantamount to a full-time job (an Ivy League, or Division III model of athletics). If schools choose the latter paradigm, the irony will be that yesterdays decision will not result in any actual players unions being formed. But the lengths to which college athletics will have to reform itself in order to avoid them is just as game-changing.
Over the weekend, the New York Times published an editorial addressing the role of Title IX in the debate about amateurism in college sports. The editorial board argues that athletic directors exaggerate when they claim that Title IX makes it impossible to allow athletes to receive compensation. The laws requirement to distribute financial aid to athletes in a manner proportionate to gender would not put college athletic departments out of business -- it would just cause them to adapt to a new business model that in which less money is available for "overhead." It may not be possible, the editorial suggests, for schools to continue to pay the head football coach the highest salaries in higher education, if athletes are also receiving some form of compensation. It also points out that the NCAA could permit athletes to negotiate their own licensing agreements without any Title IX consequences whatsoever, since the money would be flowing to athletes directly and not the institution. These are good points, I think. While weve criticized the NCAA membership for ignoring the effect on Title IX compliance of proposals to compensate athletes (such as when they allowed schools to pay stipends to only those athletes in head-count sports and not equivalency sports), I agree that its also not fair to let them argue "Title IX wont let us" as an excuse not to consider fairness reforms. Of course, my opinion is that playing sports in college shouldnt be tantamount to a professional responsibility in the first place, and that the ROI on athletic department expenditures should be measured in educational values, not profits. But until we live in that alternative universe, it makes sense to both insist that athlete compensation comply with Title IX and, at the same time, not accept Title IX as an excuse to preserve status quo.
Every spring a handful of stories emerge about high school students who want to do things that school districts feel are gender inappropriate: go to prom with a same-sex date, wear attire to prom that is perceived as gender non-conforming, run for homecoming king or queen in a non-biologically matching sex, wear the "feminine" or "masculine" attire for a yearbook photo. Some of these cases invoke Title IX, others do not, or do not make it that far. The latest of these stories is the censorship of a gay male students story--one that was solicited by the yearbook staff--in the yearbook. In Arkansas, Taylor Ellis, a junior at Sheridan High School, wrote one of 7 profiles that would be shared in the school yearbook. He came out a year ago and his profile was (ironically) about how accepted he had been by the community in that time. But the school district feels it is "too personal" and has told the yearbook it will not be allowed to publish any of the 7 profiles. They clearly see that they cannot target Elliss profile, but that does not mean the decision has been without controversy. Yearbook staffers are upset at the censorship, as are other students, and now the Human Rights Campaign has gotten involved in trying to pressure state officials to intervene. The school district seems to be holding fast. The school superintendent issued that following statement earlier in the week:
_We must make decisions that lead in the proper direction for all of our students and for our community. We must not make decisions based on demands by any special interest group.___
_The seven profiles will not be published in the yearbook._
Not sure who the "special interest group" is here. The yearbook? The students? Ellis is not standing by himself here. He has the support of the larger community.The tactic of "punishing everyone" that we seen with schools that cancel all extracurricular student clubs so that they do not have to allow a gay-straight alliance to meet, for example, is not working. If administrators hope that peer pressure will compel LGBT groups and students to skulk away they are 1) not in touch with shifting cultural tides and 2) very misguided and uncompassionate educators.
A male basketball player who sued Xavier University after he was expelled for sexual assault prevailed recently in a preliminary ruling when a federal district court denied Xaviers motion to dismiss his Title IX claim. Dezmine Wells, whose case we have blogged about before, alleges that he was expelled based on false accusation of rape by his female resident advisor. He claims that the university failed to conduct a fair and adequate hearing because it had recently been under investigation by the OCR for two other cases in which the university failed to adequately respond to female students charges of sexual assault, and is presently bound by a resolution agreement with the agency to improve its policies and procedures for handling such cases. Wells believes that, as a result of this negative attention, Xavier used him as a "scapegoat" to distance itself from its earlier lapses. The court determined that Wellss allegations under Title IX were adequate to allow his case to proceed to the discovery phase. In key part, the opinion reads:
Plaintiffs Complaint puts Defendants on adequate notice that he contends they have had a pattern of decision-making that has ultimately resulted in an alleged false outcome that he was guilty of rape. Whether Plaintiff can unearth adequate evidence to support such claim against further challenge remains to be seen. His Complaint, however, recounts Defendants having rushed to judgment, having failed to train  members [of the disciplinary hearing board], having ignored the Prosecutor, having denied Plaintiff counsel, and having denied Plaintiff witnesses. These actions came against Plaintiff, he contends, because he was a male accused of sexual assault.The court also allowed Wellss case to proceed on a second Title IX theory: that the university violated Wellss rights under Title IX because it was "deliberately indifferent" to the defects in his hearing, about which the university had actual notice. Regardless of what the facts in this case turn out to be, this aspect of Wellss claim is, in my opinion, based on a misinterpretation of Title IX case law. The actual notice/deliberate indifferent test is the test courts use for institutional liability when the underlying discrimination is _not _caused directly by the institution. It is only properly used in cases where the plaintiff has been the victim of harassment and assault at the hands of a student, employee, or some other relevant third party, and alleges that the university should have but didnt intervene. It is confusing and unnecessary to use a deliberate indifference theory in a case like this one, where the alleged discrimination was committed directly by the university. The court also refused to dismiss Wellss claim of libel at this preliminary stage. Wells v. Xavier Univ., 2014 WL 972172 (S.D. Ohio Mar. 12, 2014).
University of Pittsburgh law professor Deborah Brake recently published a thought-provoking scholarly article (free download) examining the relationship between Title IX and a generalizable preference among female athletes for male coaches, which has been demonstrated by various studies. This preference, Professor Brake argues, contributes to the decline in coaching opportunities for women, who are presently a minority among college coaches of womens teams. More broadly, the preference exposes the ways in which sex discrimination, in its subtlety and complexity, operates counter to the paradigm of discrimination that is recognized by law. For one, the bias is "within group" (i.e. exerted against women by other women) and "bottom-up" (exerted by those with less power on those with more). For another, it is a product of social forces that mediate womens agentic choices and preferences. Finally, it is a preference rooted in the intersection of sexism and anti-gay bias, and in this way, exposes the limits of discrimination laws one-dimensional, uni-lateral paradigm. By exposing counter-paradigmatic examples, Professor Brake argues, we can challenge discrimination law to become more responsive, and identify extralegal strategies for dealing with complexities of gender bias in and beyond the context of athletics. Article citation: Deborah Brake, _Discrimination Inward and Upward: Lessons on Law and Social Inequality from the Troubling Case of Women Coaches_, 2 Indiana Journal of Law & Social Inequality 1 (2014).
Patrick Henry College, in Purcellville, Virginia, is in some ways no different from the dozens of colleges and universities whose shortcomings in dealing with sexual assault have come to light of late. A recent issue of the New Republic profiled the details of one particularly emblematic incident that took place at the evangelical Christian college nicknamed "Gods Harvard." The Patrick Henry College story will sound familiar to those who are following the snowballing number of cases in which university officials are alleged to have botched their response to a reported sexual assault. There, a female student named Claire was discovered by a student security guard after escaping from the car of a male student who had just raped her. The security guards report made its way to the dean of students, who called Claire in for a meeting. Claire reportedly presented her story to the dean, who told her nothing could be done to address the alleged assault due to the absence of "proof." Instead, Claire herself was in trouble for violating the colleges alcohol policy. The alleged assailant was punished only for an alcohol infraction and "gross negligence for the concern of another" in not making sure Claire got back safely to her dorm. The emotional impact on Claire forced her to leave Patrick Henry, while her alleged assailant continued his education. Worse, Claires story appears to be part of a pattern of similar incidents involving indifference to assault by Patrick Henry College officials. While stories about college administrators brushing rape allegations under the rug are, unfortunately, no longer rare, there is one unique aspect of the situation at Patrick Henry College. The college intentionally declines all federal funding so that it is not obligated to compromise its Christian values by compliance with civil rights laws. As a result, Patrick Henry is one of a handful of private colleges (Grove City College is another) that operate entirely outside the realm of discrimination laws like Title IX and the Clery Act, which require compliance as a condition of federal funding. This means that, unlike female students at places like UConn, Occidental, UNC, and Northwestern (to name just a few) that are seeking to hold their institutions accountable for indifferent to or misreporting of assault, Patrick Henry students like Claire have no institutional recourse under federal law. In the New Republic article, attorney Brett Sokolow, president of the National Center for Higher Education Risk Management, questions how well students understand the consequences of choosing a college that goes out of its way to avoid compliance obligations under Title IX. He says that female students "need to know that going in," due to the potential consequences of this absence of legal accountability. While schools like UConn, Occidental, and UNC may have a similar sexual assault problem now, they are all cleaning up their acts because they know the government is watching. Patrick Henry students have no such assurance.
Denison University in Granville, Ohio, is reportedly under investigation by the Department of Educations Office for Civil Rights, which received a complaint alleging that the university inequitably allocates athletic opportunities in violation of Title IX. Denison, which competes in the NCAAs Division III, has about 2300 undergraduate students, 57% of whom are female. Yet it provides far more athletic opportunities to male students: 329 compared to 241 for women, or about 58%. The complaint alleges that Denison fails to comply with any one of the three tests available to educational institutions to demonstrate equity in the number of athletic opportunities for students of each sex. First, Denison does not offer opportunities proportionate to enrollment, as demonstrated by the statistical disparity noted above. According to the complaint, Denison would need 90 additional athletic opportunities for women in order to comply with the proportionality test. The second option for demonstrating compliance is to show a history and continuing practice of expanding opportunities for the underrepresented sex, but this is also unavailable to Denison, which according to public data has not grown the size of its womens athletic program in the last 10 years. Finally, Denison could demonstrate compliance by showing that despite its meager offerings, it is still satisfying the interests and abilities of the female student body. The complaint, however, alleges that Denison likely falls short under this measure as well, given that there are womens sports sanctioned by Division III that Denison does not offer, and there is no reason to assume that women at Denison are less interested in those sports than the female students at other schools in the universitys competitive region. If OCRs investigation leads the agency to conclude that Denison is in violation of Title IX, it will likely require the university to agree to remedy the violation by assessing the athletic interests of its female students and adding opportunities accordingly.
The Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit recently ruled that a high school coachs policy of requiring the boys basketball team to wear very short hair constituted sex discrimination in violation of the Constitutions Equal Protection Clause as well as Title IX. The plaintiffs, the Haydens, are parents of a high school junior in Greensburg, Indiana, who wants to but cannot join the basketball team due to the length of his hair. According to the coach, basketball players must wear their hair above the ears, in order to promote team unity and to "project a clean-cut image." The boys track coach imposes a similar requirement, though other boys teams do not. The parents sued, arguing that the hair cut policy impairs a liberty interest protected by the Constitutions due process clause, and that it constitutes sex discrimination because the school does not impose the same requirement on girls teams. A lower court ruled in favor of the school, but on appeal, the court determined that the policy constituted impermissible sex discrimination. In doing so, the courts analysis borrowed from Title VII cases that have considered dress code and appearance requirements in the context of employment. There, courts have upheld dress codes that treat employees differently on the basis of sex, but only when they impose equivalent burdens on both male and female employees. In one well-known case, for example, a court upheld a casinos requirement that female bartenders wear makeup, because it considered that requirement in the context of a larger, comprehensive dress code policy that imposed different burdens on male employees that the court saw as comparable. In similar fashion, the Seventh Circuit reasoned that without evidence that the school imposed comparable burdens on any of the female teams -- a burden that was the schools to produce -- the coachs haircut policy discriminated on the basis of sex. Not because the school didnt impose the same requirement on female athletes, but because the record did not reflect evidence that the school imposed any requirements on them that would be comparably burdensome. As part of this analysis, it was relevant to the court that the coachs policy was not simply a ban on "extreme" hair styles of the "Age of Aquarius, Tiny Tim" variety but instead required players to keep their hair above the ears. Because of the policys departure from mainstream style norms, the court saw the policy as burdensome on the male students affected by it. A dissenting judge disagreed that the haircut policy constituted sex discrimination, emphasizing that different treatment is not necessarily discrimination. For example, he pointed out that a girls softball team might wear shorts while a boys baseball team wears pants. All student-athletes at this high school are bound by a general policy that prohibits players from wearing their hair in a way that could pose problems for "health and sanitation," mohawk styles, or any styles that include "insignias, numbers, initials, or extremes in differing lengths." In addition, the athletic departments policy delegates to each coach the authority to determine "the acceptable length of hair for a particular sport." In this context, the dissenting judge viewed the boys basketball coachs policy as just one variation on a comparable set of burdens that applies to male and female athletes alike. In the end, though, this reasoning did not prevail. The lower court is under orders to apply a remedy consistent with the appellate courts opinion. Barring the unlikely intervention of the Supreme Court, the remedy that should issue is an injunction against the hair cut policy. This isnt the first time Title IX has been used to challenge requirements related to a students appearance -- prom attire cases come to mind as examples of that sort. But in terms of the statutes application to an athletic teams uniform hair style requirement, I believe this case is unique. It will be interesting to see if this case paves the way for similar challenges to come forward in the future.
A female student at Boise State University has filed suit in state court, alleging that the university violated Title IX and other Idaho laws when her track coach allegedly brushed off her report of having been sexually assaulted by a male teammate. The plaintiff, sophomore Megan Opatz, alleged in particular that she reported the assault to her coach, J.W. Hardy, and asked for his assistance, but he "refused to take any action and told her could not help." Her complaint also alleges that prior to her assault, the same assailant assaulted another female student on the team. This too had been reported to Coach Hardy, who allegedly did nothing. Opatzs complaint attributes this indifference to athletic department policy of protecting the reputation of athletes and the athletic department. The damages potentially available to Opatz if she successfully proves her case include damages arising from the coachs indifference to the first students reported assault, as well has his indifference to her own. That means, she can recover money for the physical, emotional, and other economic damages arising from the assault as well as its aftermath. To the latter category, it is relevant that Opatz alleges that her assailant was free to continue to torment her, further compounding the emotional harm to which a damages award could apply.
A lawsuit filed last week in the federal district court in Washington, D.C., seeks to enjoin the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act ("Campus SaVE") from taking effect as scheduled on Friday, March 7. Campus SaVE (see sec. 304), passed last year as part of the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, amends the Clery Act to require universities to report information about a broader category of sexual violence, as well as their processes for preventing sexual violence and addressing instances when they occur. Campus SaVE requires those process be "prompt, fair and impartial" but stops short of requiring universities to evaluate cases using a preponderance of evidence standard. The lawsuit argues that this omission violates students rights by allowing universities to use a higher burden of proof that is less likely to find a student responsible for assault. Since a preponderance standard is used in other types of disciplinary proceedings, including those involving animus based on race or disability, the plaintiff argues SaVE violates the Constitutions Equal Protection clause by failing to protect sex discrimination as strongly as other types of discrimination. The lawsuit also targets Campus SaVE for requiring universities to define consent according to state law. Depending on the state, this could incorporate a definition of consent that turns on whether the assault that was forcible, rather than just unwelcome. Since other types of harassment are defined by unwelcomeness, the plaintiff makes a similar Equal Protection argument here as well. The plaintiff is a University of Virginia student who claims that the university mishandled her report of having been drugged and raped by another student. The Department of Education along with the Department of Health and Human Services are presently investigating the university. She is seeking an injunction to ensure that the agencies do not apply Campus SaVEs "watered down standards" to her case.