A complaint alleging discrimination on the basis of gender in the University of Minnesota’s athletic program has been filed with the U.S. Department of Education, university officials acknowledged Friday.
The action, filed with the department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR), is linked to concerns about the future home of the women’s track and cross teams, according to two persons with knowledge of the complaint. University officials have declined to comment on the complaint, beyond a statement released Friday.
That statement acknowledged that the “OCR letter indicates a broad full-scale review of our program in virtually all relevant areas.”
The complaint, according to the persons with knowledge, maintains that women’s track and cross country teams allow the university to be in Title IX compliance in participation numbers. But those same women’s teams are at least initially not a part of the university’s proposed new Bierman athletic village, set to begin construction in September. The Bierman village is part of a $190 million fundraising campaign that will include an academic-focused complex plus new practice facilities for football and men’s and women’s basketball.
Women’s track and cross country accounted for 227 of the university’s 501 female participants (one cross country, indoor track and outdoor track athlete can count as three participants) in 2013-14 , according to the latest equity in athletics data figures. There were 388 total men’s athletes, 337 women; but in total participation there were 471 men, 501 women.
Both the men’s and women’s track teams are being moved from the new Bierman athletic village during the 2015-16 school year when construction begins. The existing track, in fact, will be destroyed as part of the that project.
A longterm home has yet to be decided on for track, the possibilities including a facility at the St. Paul campus, several miles from the Bierman athletic village.
An online petition to keep the track teams on campus on the website Change.org has 1,691 supporters. The petition says the “point of the village is to keep athletes close to the resources it will provide .... Why move 160 athletes 4 miles away when a new track will fit nearby in the lots by Mariucci?’’
Minnesota Athletic Director Norwood Teague notified coaches, staffs and athletes in an e-mail Friday of the complaint, but did not identify the reasons behind the complaint. He said that before the complaint was filed that the university had “retained a gender equity consultant to proactively review” his department, and its practices.
The OCR, he said in the e-mail, will conduct an investigation of the complaint. The investigation is expected to begin in February.