Are Padded Numbers Masking Title IX Violations?

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An investigation into federal roster reporting at the University of Washington has unearthed some discrepancy between the women’s rowing team participation totals as reported to the Department of Education compared to the roster published by the school online.

According to The Seattle Times, a difference of between 51 and 112 students per year were found between the reported numbers and the online roster between the years 2010 and 2015, suggesting that scores of women were officially reported who did not participate in team events.

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Kristen Galles, a lawyer specializing in university Title IX suits, told The Times that their findings would suggest that the UW has been “fraudulently fudging their numbers to make it look like they are closer to Title IX compliance.”

Title IX requires that a university show that female participation in sports is proportionate to female enrollment, and false numbers could have been used to meet minimum requirements and therefore maintain university athletics funding.

In an email, university spokesperson Carter Henderson denied any fraudulent reporting, saying that, “After thoroughly reviewing documents from the years you have inquired about, our Compliance office has found that no individuals were intentionally added … without meeting minimum participation criteria and being documented by athletic department personnel.”

However, in conducting a series of interviews, The Times spoke with eight female students whose names were reported to federal offices as members in 2013 and 2014 but who did not appear on the online roster. All of the women interviewed claimed that they had no knowledge of having been counted as crew members.

Cassie McMaster, one of the eight interviewees, claimed that she went to one informational meeting for the rowing team in 2013, but decided it wasn’t a good fit and never attended a single practice.

In an interview in January, UW athletic director Jennifer Cohen claimed she was not aware of any problems with the team rosters. “I remember hearing that our participation numbers were absolutely spot on,” she said. “The fact that you are calling women, and they are saying that (they weren’t on the team), I can’t tell you how disturbed I am right now.”

According to Galles, the university’s reported participation numbers in 2012 came in 63 athletes short of meeting Title IX requirements across women’s athletics, and 30 athletes short in 2014. Both years number gaps are significant enough that the university should have introduced a new women’s sport.

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