Local Equal Rights Activist Charges that Women in Sports are Treated as Second Class Citizens

Richard Smaby

“It is a national disgrace that Women are Second Class Citizens and the Obama administration refuses to act to end that discrimination.” Herb Dempsey, a Graham civil rights activist, commented on receiving a copy of the letter from the Seattle Office of the Office for Civil Rights within the United States Department of Education. Dempsey was commenting on an Obama Administration acknowledgement sent in response to a letter of complaint of Title IX violations received on Jan. 13. In the letter, the complainant had alleged, several local colleges and universities were discriminating against female students by failing to provide equal access to competitive athletics as required by law.

“These are local schools whose actions discriminate against females just because they are born girls. Those actions are illegal. This disgrace might not be so infuriating if we were looking at nameless banks or international corporations who treat folks so poorly but these are our local colleges and universities. They accept federal money and refuse to give females an equal chance to spend it.” Dempsey continued.

The complaint letter was submitted using forms available on the Internet and is based on seven years of publically available data provided by the US Department of Education. On the website the Office of Post-Secondary Education posts numbers received from schools under the Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act requirements. According to the website the coverage has for years included, “all co-educational postsecondary institutions that receive Title IV funding (i.e., those that participate in federal student aid programs) and that have an intercollegiate athletics program.”

In each case the complaint asserts that the facts “indicate that the College is not providing equal opportunities for female college students to play sports under Title IX’s three-part participation test.” The test is explained in the complaint: “Under the 1979 Policy Interpretation, which is applicable to both intercollegiate and interscholastic sports, compliance in the area of athletic participation is measured in any one of the following ways, referred to as the ‘three-part test’:

  1. Whether inter[collegiate] level participation opportunities for male and female students are provided in numbers substantially proportionate to their respective enrollments; or
  2. Where the members of one sex have been and are underrepresented among inter[collegiate] athletes, whether the institution can show a history and continuing practice of program expansion which is demonstrably responsive to the developing interest and abilities of the members of that sex; or
  3. Where the members of one sex are underrepresented among inter[collegiate] athletes, and the institution cannot show a continuing practice of program expansion such as that cited above, whether it can be demonstrated that the interests and abilities of the members of that sex have been fully and effectively accommodated by the present program.”

Further information on the Obama administration’s version of this discrimination is available at this site.

The original letter of complaint was acknowledged by Shirley Oliver, Senior Equal Opportunity Specialist at the Seattle Office of the Office for Civil Rights (OCR). It requests “the Seattle Office (of) OCR take all necessary steps to remedy any unlawful conduct identified in its investigation or otherwise by the College, as required by Title IX and its implementing regulations. 34 C.F.R § 106.3(a)” and end the discrimination. See the Obama Administration acknowledgement.

“If the banking industry rather than the schools were discriminating, we might be hearing ‘too big to fail’ arguments. But these aren’t corporate banks that are breaking the law. These are local schools who disregard The Constitution, equality, Title IX and state laws requiring equal treatment,” Dempsey continued.

According to a telephone interview with the complainant there are 2000 of these discrimination complaints using the years of facts posted online. The complaints are now an annual event and are filed with the regional offices of OCR. Pacific Lutheran University, University of Puget Sound and Tacoma Community College are among the local institutions involved in the complaints. Other similar complaints are being submitted from coast to coast.

Editor’s Note: Herb Dempsey has been featured on NPR, Huffington Post, Washington Post and Sports Illustrated. He also admits to being a staff member of The Mooring Mast, PLU’s student newspaper over a half century ago. 

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