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UWRF athletics department launches self-audit of Title IX compliance

Falcon News Service

March 2, 2016

To make sure that its athletics department is in compliance with federal Title IX regulations, UW-River Falls is in the beginning stages of a self-audit, according to Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Gregg Heinselman.

Heinselman, who is the Title IX coordinator on campus, said that in his 11 years UWRF, this is the first time that the school is performing a self-audit of the athletics department.

“When you look at Title IX as a federal mandate, athletics is a part of Title IX when it comes to equity,” Heinselman said. “Most people think of Title IX as an athletics law because that is just how it has resonated with the general population.”

Passed in 1972, Title IX of the Education Amendments aims to avoid the use of federal money to support sex discrimination in education programs and to provide individual citizens effective protection against those practices, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Courtney Kanipes is a junior and she used to play on the UWRF women’s basketball team. She is among those who associate Title IX with athletics.

“First thing that comes to my mind about Title IX is having equal numbers for men and women regardless the amount of teams there are,” Kanipes said.

Heinselman has to keep in mind a number of factors when dealing with Title IX in athletics, including making sure the University serves current student needs and that there is equity in what is available for students who choose to participate in sports.

“Equity has to be measured in a variety of ways,” Heinselman said. “You have to look at rosters of teams, number of men’s sports and women’s sports, equipment budgets, staffing budgets, and travel budgets.

“As we started to look at things, we really felt that we could not make some firm decisions as an institution until we understand, comprehensively, how we measured up with Title IX within our athletic department,” Heinselman said. “So we asked for and commissioned a firm to come in and pitch a proposal for auditing our athletic department.”

A firm out of San Diego, California, is in charge of auditing UWRF’s athletic department. Heinselman said that it is always better to self-audit and know where the department stands than to have an individual come in and challenge the way Title IX is being enforced in the athletics department.

If UWRF did not request a self-audit, someone could challenge the athletics department about its Title IX compliance and they could file a complaint with the federal Office for Civil Rights (OCR). That could result in the OCR investigating the athletics department, which could ultimately lead to punishment.

Heinselman and the Title IX deputy coordinators are working with the California firm. Before that, officials from the UW System met with Title IX officials at UWRF, coaches, the Faculty Senate’s Athletic Committee, and the University cabinet to walk through the self-audit process.

After the initial contact with the auditing firm, UWRF is now answering a series of questions, assessments and surveys from the firm.

“All of the information will be collected. The firm will analyze it and they will submit a draft report to the UW System,” Heinselman said. “UW System will review the report and release it to campus and the audit team will review the draft report.”

Based upon the draft findings of the firm, UWRF will respond to any gaps that are in the draft and will send the audit back to the UW System. The UW System will send it to the firm. The firm then will issue a final report to UWRF and the report will be available for staff to comply with on campus.