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Pennsylvania colleges hit with Title IX complaints

New Title IX complaints accuse nine Pennsylvania colleges of providing female students unequal athletic opportunities.
Woman playing field hockey.
Woman playing field hockey.

The Women’s Law Project filed complaints this week against nine Pennsylvania state universities for failing to provide equal opportunities for female student athletes. The complaints allege that the schools did not provide athletic opportunities for women in proportion to the number of women enrolled at them.

Terry Fromson -- managing attorney of the Women’s Law Project, a non-profit legal advocacy group focused on women's rights -- told msnbc that she had not yet received responses to the complaints, but that she expects the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights to investigate the complaints and reach the same conclusion she did. "We looked at the data and we don't think that these universities are meeting their obligations under Title IX," Fromson said. "We want these universities to acknowledge the interest of providing equality to female students."

In a letter to the chief counsel of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PSSHE), Fromson wrote, “There is no excuse for the athletic disparities at these PSSHE member universities. 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. It is time for PSSHE as a whole to undertake appropriate and ongoing measures to effectively and promptly address the inequities in their athletic programs.”

A representative from the PSSHE's Office of External Affairs did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In the letter, Fromson estimated that based on the student populations of the schools, more than 900 opportunities for women are missing. Three schools in the Pennsylvania system have already been sued for violating Title IX. The WLP had sued the state's Slippery Rock University in 2006 for Title IX violations. That lawsuit was settled in 2008.

Title IX, the law that requires schools to provide equal opportunities for women in athletics, has been in place for more than 40 years. Since its passage in 1972, women’s participation in college sports has increased more than 500 percent. Even with that increase, it has been estimated that up to 90 percent of all education institutions are not meeting the law’s requirements.

While this complaint focuses on discrimination related to college sports, students have filed a slew of complaints and lawsuits against their universities for mishandling reports of sexual assault on campus. Some schools, like California’s Occidental College, have already settled lawsuits, while others are still ongoing. President Obama created a White House task force to address the problem in January.