A woman who was instrumental in the development of Title IX says the SIU athletic department may have an uphill battle in defending against a complaint it violated the 1972 law.
The U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights is investigating a Title IX complaint against Saluki athletics following a decision to eliminate the men's and women's tennis teams earlier this year.
Charlotte West is a former women's coach and administrator at SIU and a pioneer in women's athletics. She says Title IX is very clear in spelling out how female athletes deserve the same number of opportunities as male athletes proportional to the student body.
"If in fact you have an under-representation of women in your athletic program, which SIU does have, under-representation of women, you are disallowed to drop a women's sport."
West says if SIU athletics loses the suit filed against it, the Office of Civil Rights will give it some options to remedy the situation.
"One would be to reinstate women's tennis. That would not be a real costly option and one that would certainly satisfy most people. The one that would dissatisfy many of us would be to drop a men's sport to balance out the numbers which are now awry."
West says the U.S. education department's Office of Civil Rights will begin by looking at the statistics institutions are required to produce through the Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act.
"So, they'll probably look at those figures and verify to be sure numbers are so skewed in favor of the males. They'll ask the university about their history of adding or dropping sports. They'll get some preliminary information and then they'll follow up with a visit."
West says this will likely be a lengthy investigation. She says statistics from the American Association of University Women show there were 16-thousand Title IX cases just in the past year.
"That shocked me. That the Office of Civil Rights is more industrious than I actually thought. It might not be a year. It might be two years. I don't know."
SIU athletic director Tommy Bell issued a written statement, which reads he believes the school is in compliance with Title IX and his office is providing all the relevant information to assist with the investigation.