Missouri State, ACLU settle lawsuit over women's tennis

Thursday, September 21st 2006, 12:18 pm
By: News On 6

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) _ Missouri State University and the American Civil Liberties Union on Thursday announced a settlement in a lawsuit filed on behalf of four members of the women's tennis team, whose program was eliminated for the 2006-07 school year.

Maja Stanojevic, Paty Manzur, Eleonora Kuruc and Monika Musilova will each be paid between $1,000 and $4,000 by the university under the settlement. Each side will be responsible for its own legal fees.

The university cut the women's tennis program, along with men's indoor and outdoor track, men's cross country and men's tennis during a meeting last December. The move is expected to save at least $350,000 annually in a budget that receives about $5 million from the university's general fund.

Anthony Rothert, ACLU legal director of eastern Missouri, said the lawsuit sought to emphasize the importance of Title IX, the 1972 law that prohibits sex discrimination in any educational program that receives federal funds. It also sought to ensure the university continued to comply with the law.

``We believe we raised the issue in a responsible way and we believe the university has responded in a responsible way,'' Rothert said. ``Now the four student-athletes can continue with their education and their lives.''

The ACLU filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in April, asking for the women's tennis program to be reinstated. It also asked for an injunction that was denied in May.

``Obviously, we are glad this is behind us,'' said John Black, an attorney representing the university. ``President (Michael T.) Nietzel and the Board of Governors agonized over the decision to reduce the number of sports teams. But with the current financial situation, they didn't have much choice.''

Most schools meet Title IX requirements by demonstrating that the percentages of male and female athletes are substantially proportionate with the percentages of male and female students enrolled.

Schools can also demonstrate a history of expanding athletic opportunities for the underrepresented sex or show that athletic programs accommodate the interests and abilities of the underrepresented sex.

Black said the university will continue to pursue compliance by demonstrating that percentages of athletes and students are proportionate, which ``will be much easier to measure and communicate to the general public.''