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UI women’s swimmers & divers file Title IX lawsuit against university

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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KWWL) -- Members of the University of Iowa women's swimming and diving team have filed a lawsuit against the UI alleging Title IX violations.

Sage Ohlensehlen, Christina Kaufman, Alexa Puccini, and Kelsey Drake are named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit that is seeking class action status. The lawsuit challenges what it calls, the UI's failure to provide equitable athletic opportunities for female students and equitable treatment of female student athletes, including the elimination of the women's swimming and diving program.

They are seeking a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to prevent the University from eliminating the women's swimming and diving program. The lawsuit also asks the University be prohibited from eliminating any women's sports programs unless, both before and after the elimination, equality of opportunity for women has been achieved. It also asks for both of these requests in a final injunction, following a hearing.

On top of that, the plaintiffs want it declared that the University of Iowa has engaged in a continuing pattern and practice of discrimination against women on the basis of sex in intercollegiate athletics in violation of Title IX. They also want the UI to provide their team with funding, staffing benefits in proportion to their status as an intercollegiate team. They are also seeking monetary compensation.

The lawsuit goes on to say the University of Iowa has failed to provide female undergraduate students with an equal opportunity to participate in athletics, as compared to the opportunities provided to male undergraduate students. It also claims the UI has failed to satisfy any of the following measures of compliance with Title IX's mandate to provide equal opportunity for female student athletes:

  • It has failed to provide female student athletes with athletic opportunities at a rate that is "substantially proportionate" to their undergraduate full-time enrollment rate.
  • It has failed to demonstrate a "history and continuing practice of program expansion responsive to the interests and abilities of the sex that has been historically underrepresented."
  • It has failed to show that the interests and abilities of the historically underrepresented sex have been fully and effectively accommodated.

The lawsuit specifically cites three Title IX violations. First, that the University has failed to meet any of the three criteria for compliance with Title IX's equal participation requirement, which reads:

"No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefit of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance..."

Title IX of the Education Amendment of 1972

Secondly, that the UI's failure to treat female athletes substantially equally with respect to athletic financial assistance, equipment and supplies, tutoring, locker rooms, practice and competitive facilities, housing and dining, and recruitment violates Title IX's equal treatment requirement.

Lastly, that the University of Iowa, according to data from 2018-19, provided $6,709,299 in athletic-related aid to men's athletic programs and $6,399,154 to women's athletic programs, a ratio of 51% for men and 49% for women, which also violates Title IX's equal treatment requirement.

The plaintiffs are seeking class action status on behalf of all present and future University of Iowa female students, including currently enrolled and prospective students who participate, seek to participate or have been deterred or prevented from participating in or obtaining the benefits of intercollegiate athletics sponsored by the UI.

The lawsuit is the latest in a string of moves from athletes, alumni, and parents to save the four UI sports that were cut due to revenue shortfalls brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

For more on the efforts to save the programs, click here.

The full Title IX lawsuit can be found here:

Trevor Oates

Executive Producer

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