BY SOFIA SCEKIC
PHOTO BY SPORTGRAPHICS
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The Federal District Court in Orlando issued a preliminary injunction in mid-February requiring that Florida Institute of Technology (FIT) reinstate men’s rowing to varsity status by Feb. 24 and provide the team with full funding, staffing, and other benefits by March 12.
The decision came after a group of male rowers at the school filed a Title IX lawsuit last October, arguing that the university’s decision in June 2022 to cut the program, along with four others, discriminates against men.
The lawsuit complained that athletic opportunities for men at FIT are not proportionate to undergraduate enrollment—a Title IX requirement. At FIT, about 69 percent of the students are male and about 30 percent are female, but 58 percent of athletes are male while 41 percent are female, leading to a participation gap of 123 male athletes (nearly 11 percent of students).
Instead of complying with Title IX by cutting opportunities for women, the plaintiffs asked FIT to reinstate all the cut sports (including women’s teams) and add opportunities for men. The lawsuit alleges also that FIT fails to meet Title IX criteria for equal treatment and scholarships.
FIT’s cuts were not motivated by Covid-related budgetary shortfalls. The school shifted the five programs to club status to focus resources on a smaller number of teams so it could be more competitive in the Sunshine State Conference.