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Thursday, July 8, 2004
Fresno Bee 7-8-04
Fresno State scrutinized on Title IX
Fresno State is being investigated for possible Title IX violations within its athletic department for the second time since 1992.
The university received a letter in April from the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights detailing three complaints filed since 2002. The letter outlines charges that California State University, Fresno, discriminated against women in athletics.
The Office of Civil Rights has requested information from Fresno State, which has agreed to meet with Civil Rights staff members sometime in the next several weeks, university President John Welty said Wednesday.
The allegations range from discrimination against female athletes in financial aid and accommodations to retaliation against and harassment of female coaches and athletic department employees.
"Everything that I know would indicate we are in compliance," Welty said. "Obviously, when there's a complaint filed, we take those complaints seriously. Based on what we know today, I don't believe there's any major substance to those complaints."
Welty confirmed that the April 29 letter was the first inquiry received from the Office of Civil Rights since it closed its previous Fresno State investigation in 2001.
"We responded by indicating we believe it will be productive to meet with their staff to better understand the nature of the complaints," Welty said.
Welty said the action is not an actual investigation, but that the Office of Civil Rights routinely asks a university for information when a complaint is filed. Then it determines whether an investigation is merited.
Asked to confirm that an investigation had begun, Department of Education press secretary Susan Aspey said last week, "Yes, we are investigating a Title IX complaint alleging discrimination in athletics at Cal State-Fresno."
Former administrator files
In Office of Civil Rights program director Charles Love's letter to the university, he wrote: "We have determined that the allegation(s) cited ... are appropriate for investigation under the laws enforced by OCR. OCR will proceed with resolution of the complaint."
The Office of Civil Rights is an office within the Department of Education that oversees Title IX issues for the federal government.
Title IX is part of the federal education amendments of 1972 and prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs or activities receiving federal financial assistance from the Department of Education.
Title IX compliance can be determined by three prongs: proportionality of female athletes to enrolled female undergraduates; number of scholarships; or 11 areas of benefits, opportunities and treatment.
If the university is declared out of compliance with Title IX regulations, it must negotiate a solution acceptable to the Office of Civil Rights. If it does not, the agency has the authority to seek an order to terminate federal financial assistance to the school.
Former senior women's athletics administrator Diane Milutinovich confirmed she is one of three individuals who filed a complaint. She said she did not file the other two complaints.
Milutinovich was reassigned as Student Union director when her position as associate athletic director was eliminated in April 2002. On Nov. 27, 2002, she filed a sex discrimination complaint alleging retaliation in employment and other charges of discrimination against female athletes.
"I believe Fresno State is out of compliance in all 13 areas of Title IX," said Milutinovich, who declined to discuss the specifics of her case.
Milutinovich filed her complaint 13 months after the agency closed a nine-year investigation of Fresno State.
Milutinovich also filed a lawsuit in April charging the university and several administrators with intentional and negligent emotional distress regarding her treatment the day she was reassigned. The case was dismissed last month by the Fresno County Superior Court.
The Office of Civil Rights did not initially contact the university or request information regarding Milutinovich's 2002 complaint.
Two additional claims of discrimination were filed against Fresno State on Feb. 3 and March 4 this year. Individuals who file complaints -- either to the public or the accused school -- are not identified because of privacy laws.
On April 29, the university was informed of the charges in general -- details specific to each allegation are not included -- as well as the 2002 complaint filed by Milutinovich.
First investigation in 1990s
The first Title IX investigation of Fresno State was launched in 1992. In April 1994, it declared the university out of compliance in 11 of 13 areas protected by Title IX law over a 20-year period.
The university responded two months later with a $7 million corrective action plan. It included the addition of women's soccer and equestrian, the building of the Bulldog Diamond softball field and the elimination of men's water polo and men's swimming and diving.
The Office of Civil Rights closed the investigation in October 2001, giving the university its seal of approval for becoming Title IX compliant.
In the three years since, Welty said the university has made an ongoing effort to maintain that status.
He said the decision to eliminate the men's soccer, cross country and indoor track and field teams last year was partly the result of an attempt to improve the university's male-to-female ratio in athletics.
No other sports in jeopardy
The university is not considering the addition or elimination of any more sports at this time, Welty said.
"We've continued to monitor implementation and we, on an annual basis, review the status of our equity efforts," Welty said. "We are in the midst of developing a revised plan dealing with equity that will be discussed by our Equity Monitoring Committee in the fall."
The Gender Equity Monitoring Committee is led by Jeannine Raymond, the university's director of human resources.
Women's swimming and diving was eliminated after last season. The university is adding women's golf for the 2004-05 school year, but golf is allowed eight fewer scholarships than swimming and diving.
The proportional gap between Fresno State's female athletes and its overall female undergraduate population more than tripled between 1998-99 and 2002-03.
The percentage of athletes who were female in 2002-03 was 8.15 percentage points less than the percentage of undergraduate students who were female, according to information provided to the Department of Education. In 1998-99, the gap was 2.46 percentage points.
Welty said the number of female athletes has increased for the second straight year, and the proportion of athletes who are female jumped from 49.8% in 2002-03 to 55.5% in 2003-04. With the addition of women's golf, he said the 2004-05 number is projected to be 57.4%.
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