Members of the University of Cincinnati Women’s Rowing team have sued their university, alleging violations of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. § 1681-87 as well as their rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution.
The plaintiffs, represented by Robert B. Newman of Newman & Meeks in Cincinnati, sought to demonstrate a pattern of gender discrimination at the school, including inadequate facilities and other resources.
Initially, the complaint noted that UC started its rowing program in 2000. Later that same year, a donor and a member of the UC’s Board of Trustees pledged $1 million toward the construction of a boathouse that would be built in Wilder, Kentucky, on the Licking River. Gradually, the projected cost of the boathouse increased. By 2004, the estimated cost was $6 million. The project was scrapped.
This set the stage for a host of violations, according to the plaintiffs.
“From its inception the women’s rowing team has rowed from three locations all of which had no power, water, sewer or shelter,” wrote the plaintiffs. “The team has had the equipment vandalized and stolen on several occasions.”
The current site, wrote the plaintiffs, has a trailer that the team uses to store equipment. “However there are no bathrooms, no lockers, no running water, no electricity, and no place to change clothes,” according to the complaint. “Because of the distance to the water, rowing team members have to carry an approximate 150 pound outboard motor over 100 yards to the water.
“The facilities for the rowing team are primitive, inadequate, and far less than any other intercollegiate rowing team, and all male sports at the University of Cincinnati have, by comparison, their facilities needs better met,” according to the complaint.
The plaintiffs also claimed they were discriminated against when it came to access to the varsity weight room. “The use of the Varsity weight room for the women rowers has been restricted to 6:00-8:00 a.m., two to three times per week for 65 women. Men’s sports, including baseball, have been given priority times, and the women have regularly been refused entry in the afternoons.”
They next turned to what they claimed was inadequate coaching staff and medical support.
“From 2000 to 2005 there was one head coach for the 65 women on the roster. This coach, initially paid $30,000 and later raised to $34,000 was the lowest paid head coach in athletics at the University. In addition, there was an assistant coach who was budgeted at $17,000, and a second assistant who was paid tuition out of the women’s rowing scholarship budget… . By contrast the baseball team has 33 athletes with three full coaches and one part-time coach.
“From an athlete-to-coach ratio, no men’s sports team has as low a ratio as the women’s rowing team.”
The team was also neglected from a medical standpoint, according to the complaint, which noted that the team has not had access to a certified athletic trainer over the last two years for its away events.
“Women who have chronic injuries have had numerous occasions when they were unable to receive treatment. In spite of an athletic department policy that a trainer must be present at all conditioning sessions and practices, there never has been such a trainer in five years available for the women’s rowing team for such sessions, either on or off the campus.”
Finally, the plaintiffs painted a picture of a university that it believed was not only discriminatory toward the rowing team, but all the UC women’s programs.
“The University of Cincinnati, overall, spends one million dollars more a year on men’s scholarships than women’s,” they wrote. “The total available scholarships for men is 146.6, and for women 105. The percentage of available scholarships for women is 40 percent and 60 percent for men. …Women athletes have been systematically discriminated across the board with respect to scholarships. Women are nearly equal in terms of the percent of the student body (48.3 percent women and 51.7 percent men). Women have an equal interest in athletics as men, but fewer opportunities.”
In an interview with the media last month, Mitchell McCrate, the school’s associate general counsel, said he met with Newman last month to discuss the boathouse, but that Newman didn’t mention any of the other complaints.
“It’s not like we’re building a building on campus here,” McCrate said. “We don’t have a river running through campus, so we need to secure an offsite (spot that) needs to meet a lot of requirements.”