Judge: MSU not Title IX compliant, but not required to reinstate swimming
EAST LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Swimmers from Michigan State University filed a lawsuit when the school shut down its men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams in October of 2020. Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Hala Y. Jarbou ruled that the move was in violation of Title IX, which prohibits sexual discrimination in education.
However, the university will not have to reinstate the program.
“When Plaintiffs filed this action, they were members of MSU’s varsity women’s swimming and diving team. They claim that MSU discriminates against women, in violation of Title IX,” Jarbou wrote in their opinion. “The Court initially denied their request. After an appeal and remand for reconsideration, the Court will grant their motion in part.”
Title IX prohibits sex discrimination in the provision of college sports programs, providing that “no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity,” including intercollegiate athletics. in practical terms this means schools are required to offer opportunities for male and female students in numbers substantially proportionate to their respective enrollments.
Yet Judge Jarbou also said that being in violation of Title IX does not necessarily obligate MSU to reinstate the swimming and diving program. In their opinion, Jarbou said there was almost no evidence that the violation of Title IX was intentional, but rather a consequence of failing to update policy after recent court rulings.
“MSU’s actions do not suggest such an unwillingness or inability. Instead, they suggest that it may have relied on certain metrics to determine compliance (e.g., the average size of a women’s team) that some courts have used and that the Court of Appeals has only recently rejected,” Jarbou wrote. “In addition to the financial burden of reinstating the women’s team, MSU would face several logistical hurdles if the Court required it to assemble a team to compete this coming season, including recruiting team members, potentially hiring coaching staff, and scheduling practices and competitions with other schools before the start of the season.”
MSU will instead have to focus on the general participation gap between its men and women athletes, being required to submit to the Court a Title IX compliance plan within 60 days.
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