NWLC Publicizes Scholarship Discrepancies at 30 Schools

By Staff

Athletic Management, 14.5, August/September 2002, http://www.momentummedia.com/articles/am/am1405/bbnwlc.htm

While many groups celebrated the 30th anniversary of Title IX this year through special programming, the National Women’s Law Center acknowledged the occasion by strongly reminding schools that there is still much work to be done. On June 18, the NWLC sent letters to 30 colleges and universities outlining the gap between the amount of athletic scholarship dollars given to men as compared to women at each of these schools.

“We picked these 30 to represent a broad range of schools that are not in compliance,” says Neena Chaudhry, Senior Counsel with the NWLC. “They’re not the 30 worst, because we took into account other factors such as geographic area and public versus private schools. We also wanted to list some big athletic programs and some small programs.”

Each letter gave a rundown of the pertinent Title IX regulations and then showed how athletic scholarships did not reflect enrollment and participation numbers at that school. The scholarship gap at the 30 schools ranged from four to 17 percent, with the gap between the average male and female scholarship as high as $6,545. At eight of the schools, the discrepancy totaled over $300,000, and the overall gap at the 30 schools amounts to nearly $6.5 million, according to the NWLC.

Most of the letters were addressed to the college or university president, with copies going to the athletic director and head of the Board of Trustees. Within days, the NWLC had received several responses.

“One great response was from University of Miami President Donna Shalala, basically letting us know that she agreed that the athletic scholarship gap was unacceptable and that they are working with the Office of Civil Rights on a corrective action plan,” says Chaudhry.

“We’ve also heard from schools who seem to suggest that because their participation numbers are good, that should be all that matters,” she continues. “But, of course, our focus in the letters was on the athletic scholarship piece of Title IX, which schools have to comply with as well. So, I think some schools are a little confused about what the law requires.”

A few schools argued that the NWLC didn’t investigate the issue before sending the letters, and that its numbers are wrong. “But this is data that the schools provided themselves to the Department of Education through the Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act,” explains Chaudhry. “Each school’s letter has the data that they themselves submitted attached. And I think it’s really a problem if schools are submitting data that is intended to be available for the public and then not stand behind it.”

In some cases, a school may have a legitimate reason for a gap existing between scholarship dollars given to women as compared to those given to men. But, according to Chaudhry, none of the 30 schools supplied any such explanation to the Department of Education.

The NWLC has chosen the letters as a starting point to get the schools to look at the way they distribute scholarship monies and fix any problems. “Some of them seemed kind of upset that we didn’t ask them for their explanation, but the reason we’re sending them letters is to start that dialogue,” says Chaudhry. “We didn’t file complaints. We didn’t file lawsuits. We wrote a letter. And we said, publicly, that we want to alert them to this gap, that we think it’s a problem, and that we’d like them to respond to us.”

Chaudhry says the NWLC will now wait to hear back from all 30 schools, and if there is no response, the NWLC will be contacting them again. “Our goal is to work with the schools to make sure that female athletes are getting their fair share of scholarship dollars,” she says, “and if we’re unable to secure some sort of agreement or resolution with the school, then we will consider our other options.”

Chaudhry would not comment on whether more letters were going out to other schools that were not in compliance, but in an interview with The NCAA News, NWLC Co-President Marcia Greenburger said, “Many others could have been on this list, and we urge schools to evaluate their programs to ensure that they are complying with the law and doing the right thing for their female athletes.”

The Web address of the National Women’s Law Center is: www.nwlc.org. More information about the group’s work in the athletics arena can be found at: www.nwlc.org/display.cfm?section=athletics.