The University of Minnesota is being sued for its decision last year to cut the men's gymnastics team — with the plaintiff, a student athlete, alleging sex-based discrimination.
The lawsuit was filed Friday on behalf of Evan Ng, who came to the U of M on an athletic scholarship, only to learn the program was cancelled before he "ever set foot on campus" last fall.
According to a press release from Pacific Legal Foundation, which represents Ng, the U of M's decision — which is set to go into effect after the current school year — was made "under the mistaken belief that federal Title IX law requires the proportion of male athletes to match the proportion of males in the student body."
“This kind of sex-based discrimination is precisely what Title IX and the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause forbid. Simply eliminating men’s programs does nothing to create more opportunities for women,” attorney Caleb Trotter said in the release.
Title IX is a federal civil rights law that prohibits sex-based discrimination in any school or university that receives federal money.
The suit alleges that the U of M violated Title IX by enforcing "sex-based quotas" aimed at achieving "statistical parity" between male and female student athletes.
The lawsuit points out that Title IX "does not require or allow the use of quota-based discrimination on the basis of sex."
In a September 2020 press release about the decision to cut men's gymnastics as well as other programs, officials said the move was based on "the financial challenges facing the athletics department" as well as the university's "Title IX obligations" — but it did not elaborate on how the decision met such obligations.
In an email to Bring Me The News, a university spokesman shared the following statement:
The decision to eliminate three intercollegiate sports programs was a difficult one. Importantly, this lawsuit isn’t just about the University. It is a broad challenge to how Title IX has been implemented by the U.S. government across colleges and Universities nationwide to achieve equal opportunity. The University has and will always honor its legal obligations.
The U of M's decision allowed for Ng and other athletes affected by the move to keep their scholarships, as well as "continued access to academic advising, sports psychology and other mental health resources and athletic medicine."
According to the lawsuit, Ng has been a competitive gymnast "since he was six years old."