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HARPER v. BD. OF REG.

February 3, 1999

RITA HARPER, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
BOARD OF REGENTS, ILLINOIS STATE UNIVERSITY, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: McDADE, Chief Judge.

ORDER

Now before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment on the remaining counts of Plaintiffs' Complaint. The Court has jurisdiction over this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331, as Plaintiffs bring claims under Title IX, Title VI, and the First Amendment.

Background

In 1993, Illinois State University's ("ISU" or the "University") Gender Equity Committee (the "Committee") undertook an investigation and evaluation of athletic data relevant to gender equity and Title IX compliance with the stated purpose of achieving gender equity for the areas examined. The Committee's efforts ultimately resulted in the issuance of the Gender Equity Committee Report (the "Report") in Fall 1993 that noted a disparity between the percentage of female students in the undergraduate population at the University and the percentage of female participants in the intercollegiate athletics programs offered. The Athletic Department was to review the Report and incorporate it in the long range planning process for the University. In January 1995, the NCAA Peer-Review Committee conducted an audit of ISU and determined that the University was not in substantial conformity regarding gender equity as it had no written plan to achieve gender equity in place two years after the completion of the Report.

After consideration of various alternatives, ISU's Department of Intercollegiate Athletics submitted a gender equity plan to the University president and legal counsel in 1995 that included a recommendation to eliminate men's wrestling and soccer, as well as add women's soccer, men's roster management, and full grants/aid for both men and women. This recommendation was submitted to the Athletic Council on March 22, 1995 and April 26, 1995, and the recommendation received its support.

This process culminated in the official decision in Spring 1995 to eliminate the men's intercollegiate soccer and wrestling programs and add a women's intercollegiate soccer program.*fn1 The parties dispute who actually made this decision, but they agree that Linda Herman ("Herman"), ISU's Associate Athletic Director, was actively involved in the decision-making process and that the University president, Thomas Wallace, officially adopted the plan in a memorandum dated April 27, 1995. Accordingly, the men's wrestling and soccer teams were eliminated as intercollegiate sports after the 1994-95 season, and women's soccer was elevated to a varsity level sport for the 1995-96 season.

Plaintiffs are present, former, and prospective students and participants in intercollegiate athletic programs at ISU, some of whom were promised full or partial scholarships in either men's wrestling or soccer. On September 22, 1995, they filed an eleven count complaint in this Court. The complaint was amended once on November 13, 1995 and again on May 24, 1996. Following a motion to dismiss, only four counts remain. Count I alleges that Defendants discriminated on the basis of sex in eliminating the men's wrestling and soccer programs in violation of Title IX.*fn2 In Count IV, Plaintiffs assert a violation of Title VI based on the purported denial of opportunities for minority students to participate in intercollegiate athletic programs on the basis of race. Count IX purports to invoke the supplemental jurisdiction of the Court to entertain state law claims for promissory estoppel and fraudulent inducement. Finally, Count X alleges that Defendant Jill Hutchison ("Hutchison"), ISU's women's basketball coach, infringed the First Amendment rights of two Plaintiffs. Defendants have moved for summary judgment on the remaining counts of the Second Amended Complaint. This Order follows.

Legal Standard

A motion for summary judgment will be granted where there are no genuine issues of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). The moving party has the responsibility of informing the Court of portions of the record or affidavits that demonstrate the absence of a triable issue. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2552, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). The moving party may meet its burden of showing an absence of material facts by demonstrating "that there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case." Id. at 2553. Any doubt as to the existence of a genuine issue for trial is resolved against the moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2513, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986); Cain v. Lane, 857 F.2d 1139, 1142 (7th Cir. 1988).

If the moving party meets its burden, the non-moving party then has the burden of presenting specific facts to show that there is a genuine issue of material fact. Matsushita Elec. Indus.Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 1355-56, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(e) requires the non-moving party to go beyond the pleadings and produce evidence of a genuine issue for trial. Celotex Corp., 106 S.Ct. at 2553. This Court must then determine whether there is a need for trial — whether, in other words, there are any genuine factual issues that properly can be resolved only by a finder of fact because they may be reasonably resolved in favor of either party. Anderson, 106 S.Ct. at 2511.

Discussion

I. Title IX Claim

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in educational programs and activities which receive federal funding. Mary M. v. North Lawrence Community School Corp., 131 F.3d 1220, 1224 (7th Cir. 1997), cert. denied, ___ U.S. ___, 118 S.Ct. 2369, 141 L.Ed.2d 737 (1998). Specifically, the relevant portion of Title IX provides:

  No person in the United States shall, on the basis
  of sex, be excluded from participation in, be
  denied the benefits of, or be subjected to
  discrimination under any education program or
  ...

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