University News

WIU, OCR Reach Agreement

October 13, 2008

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MACOMB, IL -- The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) and Western Illinois University have signed a resolution agreement following a complaint filed with the OCR alleging Title IX violations by the University's Intercollegiate Athletics Program.

The complaint alleged that the University does not effectively accommodate the athletic interests and abilities of members of both sexes and did not provide equitable publicity for men's and women's athletics. According to WIU Attorney Heidi Benson, the agreement with OCR states that the University strongly denies the allegations of the complaint and agrees to resolve the complaint by providing information that illustrates Title IX compliance.

Benson noted that the University has already taken steps that address components of the agreement relating to the OCR's "three part test." The University recently completed a survey in which all of Western's 10,000-plus undergraduate students were asked their interest in participating and ability to participate in a variety of sports that are considered by Title IX as "core" or "emerging." Cathy Couza, director of the Office of Equal Opportunity and Access and Title IX coordinator at Western, noted the survey is being used to assess the level of interest and ability in sports that may not be offered at WIU. The survey was based on the model survey that was recommended by the OCR, Couza added.

"We will tabulate the data from this survey, and the University will submit the results of the survey to the OCR by April 1, 2009," Couza explained. "We will also use the data to formulate a plan, which will be submitted to the OCR for approval, to illustrate how the University is accommodating the interests and abilities of female and male students in the University's Intercollegiate Athletics Program. It's important to know that University policy and OCR guidance do not support the elimination of opportunities for participation to achieve equity."

Benson added that the agreement signed by both the OCR and University officials states that the University does provide equal opportunities in the provision of publicity for its intercollegiate athletics teams.

"The University will provide further evidence to the OCR by Nov. 1 which demonstrates male and female athletes receive equivalent treatment, benefits and opportunities in regard to publicity," Benson said.

According to Couza, it's essential to note that the University, in recent years, has added women's soccer and women's golf to the athletics team roster, and that scholarship opportunities have grown in these sports.

"We're pleased that we could reach a resolution and agreement with the Office of Civil Rights," said WIU President Al Goldfarb. "I look forward to receiving the results of the recent student survery regarding potential new athletic opportunities for all of our students."

Posted By: Darcie Shinberger (
Office of University Communications & Marketing