Seventeen athletes at San Diego State University have filed what is believed to be the first ever claim for monetary damages against a school for violating Title IX gender-equity requirements.
The federal class-action sex discrimination lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, follows SDSU’s decision to drop the sport of women’s rowing at the end of last season, claiming that it had too many female athletes to stay Title IX compliant.
The lawsuit alleges that, on the contrary, the school has been habitually depriving women of athletic financial aid, based on the gender proportions of its campus.
The plaintiffs are collectively seeking $1.2 million for the equal athletic aid they claim to be denied over the past two academic years–the statute of limitations for such actions–while claiming that the financial inequities have existed for at least a decade.
“It is a sad day for the entire SDSU community that we have to sue the university to make it comply with Title IX and provide athletic financial aid equally to women and men,” said Madison Fisk, a former rower, in a statement provided by her lawyers. “Title IX has been the law for 50 years now and SDSU still isn’t providing its female athletes with equal scholarship support. It’s time for that to change.”
In a statement, a university spokesperson said the school was “disappointed with the incomplete picture presented by the plaintiff’s lawyers about the support of and successes of SDSU’s female student-athletes.”
San Diego State spent just over a million dollars on its rowing team for 2020-21, according to financial data the university provided to the NCAA.
The female athletes are being represented by Arthur Bryant and Lori Bullock, of the Bailey & Glasser law firm. The lawyers have previously waged successful legal battles against a number of universities over their decisions to cut sports programs, including Clemson’s attempt to discontinue its men’s track and field program.
(This article has been updated in the sixth paragraph with a statement from San Diego State.)