32 female University of Oregon athletes file Title IX lawsuit against the school

Thirty-two female athletes at the University of Oregon filed a federal lawsuit against the school Friday alleging Title IX violations in women’s sports, namely, the beach volleyball and club rowing teams.

The 115-page suit, filed by 26 women’s beach volleyball players and six women’s club rowers, alleges the University of Oregon has been “depriving them of equal treatment and benefits, equal athletic financial aid and equal opportunities to participate in violation of Title IX,” adding that the school treats “its varsity male student-athletes shockingly better than its varsity female student-athletes.”

Oregon does not meet the three “areas of compliance” under Title IX set by the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, the suit alleges: Equal treatment and benefits, equal athletic financial assistance, and effective accommodation of students’ athletic interest and ability.

The University of Oregon said it believes it complies with Title IX, saying in a statement that it is “committed to providing a quality, positive experience for all our student-athletes,” including “academic support, tutoring, student-athlete development, medical care, mental health support, meals and snacks, and nutrition and sports training.”

The women allege that Oregon does not provide fair “treatment and benefit” to women’s teams, whereas men’s teams get “incredibly exorbitant” benefits and treatment. In the 2021-22 school year, women made up more than 49% of Oregon’s student-athletes, but the school spent only 25% of its annual athletics budget on them.

Additionally, Oregon provides its men’s teams with “superior” equipment and facilities, the lawsuit alleges, including “high-quality gear that fits well, is personalized and tailored to the athlete and is sport-appropriate,” as well as unlimited extra gear and custom fittings.

In contrast, the women’s beach volleyball team receives one “gear drop” at the beginning of each season, including uniforms that are often used and don’t fit well, the suit alleges. When the team’s drop contains inadequate materials for the season, players are forced to borrow from other teams or purchase gear themselves. The materials must be returned at the end of the season; the men’s football and basketball teams get to keep their gear, according to the suit.

The suit also compares stadiums and locker rooms for men’s sports, saying the women’s facilities are “vastly inferior,” including that of the women’s beach volleyball team, which does not have its own designated locker room or practice and competition court on campus.

Instead, the women’s beach volleyball team practices at a nearby public park, and players rake the sand to get rid of animal feces and drug paraphernalia, the suit alleges. The park’s bathroom stalls do not have doors to prevent drug users and squatters, according to the filing.

On Wednesday, the team couldn’t practice at the public court “because, sadly and disturbingly, a deceased person was discovered near Amazon Park,” the lawsuit states.

Time spent practicing or training in shared facilities must be scheduled around the men’s teams, the suit alleges, and the university fails to provide the women’s beach volleyball team with a challenging schedule complete with plenty of competition against other Division I teams.

Additionally, the suit alleges that the university provides male student-athletes with more athletic financial aid than its female student-athletes, a difference totaling $4.5 million in “amounts proportional to those awarded to Oregon’s male student-athletes” for the five most recent school years.

“Title IX has been the law for more than 50 years. Oregon needs to comply with it, now,” Arthur H. Bryant of Bailey & Glasser and lead counsel for the women, said in a statement, adding that the suit was the result of a July investigation by The Oregonian that Bryant said revealed “blatant sex discrimination.”

That investigation found that the women’s beach volleyball team at Oregon was the only team at a Power Five conference public school — regardless of sport and gender — that failed to receive scholarship funding in 2021-22, according to The Oregonian.

In a statement, the school said it had “previously committed to increasing scholarships and to building a beach volleyball facility on campus at a site identified via the Campus Planning process.”

“Based on the way the beach volleyball team has been treated, female athletes at Oregon do not need much food or water, good or clean clothes or uniforms, scholarships, medical treatment or mental health services, their own facilities, a locker room, proper transportation, or other basic necessities. Male athletes are treated incredibly better in almost every respect,” women’s beach volleyball team captain and lead plaintiff Ashley Schroeder said in a statement.

The women are asking for an order that the school is discriminating against its current female varsity student-athletes “on the basis of their sex” and the issuance of a permanent injunction barring Oregon from doing so.