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Title IX considerations will shape UND women's hockey cut

Donna Smith

The Wednesday cut of the UND women's hockey team involved substantial consideration of federal code relating to Title IX gender equity provisions in public education, said UND leaders.

Donna Smith, UND's coordinator for Title IX programs, said the federal code invoked in cases of gender discrimination applies in three basic areas to collegiate athletics, including participation rates and opportunity; financial aid and scholarships; and a catch-all section including things such as travel conditions, athletic trainers and tutoring.

Smith said participation equity is determined using the proportion of the sexes in the full-time undergraduate population, meaning a campus with a 50-50 split between male and female students as a whole would be expected to show a similar ratio among its student athletes.

Equity for scholarship aid follows that same standard and is expected to be held within 1 percent of the participation rates, Smith said.

"What happens a lot is that when you make changes that affect roster size or elimination of a team, what you need to do is balance both parts of those," she said. "And what happens sometimes is when one side gets balanced, the other side is out of balance."

For UND, the departure of the women's hockey team will leave behind 18 vacant scholarships that must now be reallocated to maintain gender equity. The loss of the men's and women's swimming and diving teams—announced at the same time as the women's hockey cut—could add another dynamic to balancing equity issues.

A UND news release addressing the cuts stated the institution hired the outside counsel of the Baker Donelson law firm to guide the school through the Title IX implications of the decision.

University President Mark Kennedy said after a Wednesday press conference that the new allocation of athletics resources will be finished "expeditiously."

"As we allocate dollars available, it will be done in order to keep that balance," Kennedy said, pointing to the announced repurposing of the hockey team's locker facilities in the Ralph Engelstad Arena as one example.

He described Title IX requirements as providing a "moving target" for equity that the university addresses each year as the student population changes.

"It means you need to move from this sport to that sport to balance out," he said, adding Baker Donelson had been brought in to "help make sure we're making all those calculations in the appropriate way and having all the input we need to do that."

UND Athletics Director Brian Faison said the university's gender equity requirements are held alongside funding requirements set by the Summit League athletic conference and the overarching NCAA, which will "dictate a lot of where (former women's hockey funding) goes."

Faison said funding will be spread between women's and men's teams over the course of the upcoming summer going into next year.

"That'll happen fairly quickly," he said. "We're obviously not closing down anything until end of the academic year, but at that junction we'll start pumping it back the other way."

Andrew Haffner

Andrew Haffner covers county, health and general assignment stories for the Grand Forks Herald. He attended the University of Wisconsin in Madison, where he studied journalism, political science and international studies. He previously worked at the Dickinson Press.

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