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Title IX complaints filed against Millersville, Shippensburg universities

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The Women's Law Project has filed complaints with the Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education against Millersville, Shippensburg and seven other universities in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education.

According to the complaint, Millersville has seven men's varsity teams and 12 women's varsity teams, but its participation gap for women has averaged 11.6 percent over the past decade. The Shippensburg numbers are nine men's varsity teams and 11 women's varsity teams, with the participation gap averaging 7.45 percent over the decade.

Millersville would need to add 54 athletic opportunities to come into substantial proportionality to enrollment, the complaint says; for Shippensburg, the number is 55.

"Despite the fact that Title IX has obligated them to achieve gender equality for more than four decades, these universities have not undertaken genuine efforts to increase opportunities for or satisfy the athletic interests of their female students," Terry Fromson, managing attorney of the Women's Law Project, wrote in a letter to counsel for PASSHE.

It is time, Fromson said, for PASSHE "as a whole to undertake appropriate and ongoing measures to effectively and promptly address the inequities in their athletic programs."

PASSHE spokesman Kenn Marshall issued the following statement in response.

"All of our universities take their responsibilities under Title IX very seriously. Despite being faced with changing demographics in the state — which have resulted in relatively flat or even declining enrollments across the System — as well as significant, long-term financial challenges, all of the institutions have made progress toward achieving gender equity in the area of athletic participation.

"We are committed to achieving the appropriate balance so all of our students have equal opportunities to participate in the entire range of activities, including athletics, that help make the complete college experience so rewarding."

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits sex discrimination by federally funded educational programs, requires schools to provide equal athletic opportunity, financial assistance and recruiting support.

To meet Title IX's equal athletic opportunity requirement, a university must demonstrate that it meets one of three tests: 1. providing women with athletic opportunities in substantial proportion to their full-time undergraduate enrollment; 2. demonstrating a history and continuing practice of increasing athletic opportunities for women; or 3. effectively accommodating the athletic interests and abilities of women.

The Women's Law Project is a nonprofit women's legal advocacy organization with offices in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

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