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Office of Civil Rights opening investigation into UND's Title IX compliance

The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights is opening an investigation to determine whether UND is Title IX compliant after recent athletics cuts.

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The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights is opening an investigation to determine whether UND is Title IX compliant after recent athletics cuts.

The investigation is being launched after the ORC received a complaint alleging discrimination based upon sex because of the selection of sports at the school does not effectively accommodate the interests and abilities of members of both sexes to the extent necessary to provide equal athletic opportunity.

The opening of the investigation does not imply that the OCR has made a determination in regard to its merit.

The OCR said it is opening the investigation because it determined that it has jurisdiction over the complaint and that it was filed in a timely manner.

The OCR received the complaint on April 1-three days after UND announced the cuts.

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"We are aware of the investigation, which was not unexpected," UND spokesman Peter Johnson said. "We will work with the investigators to answer whatever questions they might have."

UND announced it was cutting women's hockey and men's and women's swimming and diving three weeks ago. A year earlier, UND also cut the baseball program.

The cuts were part of a campuswide effort to trim budgets with an anticipated dip in state funding.

UND President Mark Kennedy asked the athletic department to cut $1.3 million from its budget.

The decision to cut women's hockey, which had eight players in the 2014 Olympic Games, became a nationwide story.

UND retained lawyers from the Baker Donelson firm in the weeks prior to the cuts. The lawyers counseled UND on ways to defend against potential lawsuits.

The school declined to release any documents presented by the law firm in an open records request by the Herald, citing North Dakota Century Code 44-04-19-1(6).

That passage exempts attorney work that is done to prepare for "reasonably predictable civil or criminal litigation."

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Between the four sports cut in the last two years, UND has eliminated 30.5 women's scholarships (18 for hockey, 12.5 for swimming and diving) and 10 men's scholarships (five each for swimming and diving and baseball), but it said it plans to reinvest some of the women's scholarships into other sports for next season.

UND women's hockey players initially pushed to save the program, but chances of that have dwindled in recent weeks.

Some women's hockey supporters asked Kennedy if they could raise money to save the program.

Kennedy said he would only consider it if he immediately received $60 million to endow the program-a figure that supporters have found "unrealistic," according to Kennedy.

Three players and two recruits have already found new homes.

Goalie Kristen Campbell is headed to Wisconsin, forward Rebekah Kolstad signed at MSU-Mankato and forward Alyssa MacMillan, whose brothers Mark and Mitch played at UND, signed at the University of Ottawa.

UND recruits Gabbie Hughes (Minnesota Duluth) and Taylor Wemple (St. Cloud State) also have signed elsewhere.

UND head swimming and diving coach Chris Maiello accepted a job at the University of Connecticut this week.

Schlossman has covered college hockey for the Grand Forks Herald since 2005. He has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors as the top beat writer for the Herald's circulation division four times and the North Dakota sportswriter of the year once. He resides in Grand Forks. Reach him at bschlossman@gfherald.com.
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