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Portz v. St. Cloud State University

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

July 25, 2018

ALEXIE PORTZ, JILL KEDROWSKI, ABIGAIL KANTOR, MARILIA ROQUE DIVERSI, FERNANDA QUINTINO DOS SANTOS, MARIA HAUER, HALEY BOCK, KAITLYN BABICH, ANNA LINDELL, and KIERSTEN ROHDE, individually and on behalf of all those similarly situated Plaintiffs,
v.
ST. CLOUD STATE UNIVERSITY and MINNESOTA STATE COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES, Defendants.

          Sharon L. Van Dyck, Donald C. Mark, Jr., and Andrew T. James, FAFINSKI MARK & JOHNSON, P.A., for plaintiffs.

          Kevin A. Finnerty, Assistant Attorney General, for defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          JOHN R. TUNHEIM CHIEF JUDGE

         Plaintiffs - a class of female student-athletes at St. Cloud State University - bring this Title IX action against St. Cloud State University and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Board of Trustees (collectively, “SCSU”). Plaintiffs allege that SCSU violated Title IX by failing to provide equal-participation opportunities, benefits, and financial aid to female student-athletes. SCSU moves for partial summary judgment, seeking dismissal of (1) Plaintiffs' claim that SCSU failed to provide proportionate athletic-based financial aid to female student-athletes and (2) Plaintiffs' damages claim. The Court will conclude that (1) Plaintiffs have failed to create a genuine dispute of material fact with respect to their financial-aid claim and (2) the Court has already dismissed Plaintiffs' damages claim in its previous order. Accordingly, the Court will grant SCSU's motion in full. The Court will also deny Plaintiffs' request for a jury trial because Plaintiffs now seek only equitable relief.

         BACKGROUND

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Defendant St. Cloud State University is a public university owned and operated by the State of Minnesota. (2d Am. Compl. (“Compl.”) ¶ 18, Aug. 15, 2017, Docket No. 184.) The University is a member of the Minnesota State system, which is governed by a board of trustees known as the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Board of Trustees. (Id. ¶ 20.) SCSU receives federal funds and is subject to Title IX. (Id. ¶ 19.) SCSU offers a number of varsity intercollegiate sports, which are divided into a four-tiered system. (Id. ¶¶ 59, 67.) Plaintiffs are a class comprised of:

All present, prospective, and future female students at St. Cloud State University who are harmed by and want to end St. Cloud State University's sex discrimination in: (1) the allocation of athletic participation opportunities; (2) the allocation of athletic financial assistance; and (3) the allocation of benefits provided to varsity athletes.

Portz v. St. Cloud State. Univ., 297 F.Supp.3d 929, 957 (D. Minn. 2018).

         In 2011, SCSU's enrollment peaked at ¶ 19, 186, excluding high-school students. (Aff. of Lisa Foss (“Foss Aff.”) ¶ 4, May 11, 2016, Docket No. 26.) By 2016, SCSU's enrollment had declined to 14, 990, excluding high-school students. (Id. ¶ 5.) From 2011 to 2016, revenues from tuition fell by approximately $8.6 million. (Id. ¶ 6.) On March 2, 2016, SCSU announced its intent to reorganize its athletic offerings by eliminating six intercollegiate sports programs, including the women's tennis and women's Nordic skiing teams. (Compl. ¶ 78.)

         Plaintiffs allege that SCSU has violated three requirements of Title IX and its implementing regulations. See 20 U.S.C. § 1681(a). Relevant to this motion, the Department of Education's (“DOE”) regulations require institutions of higher education to allocate athletic-based financial aid proportionate to the number of male and female student-athletes. 34 C.F.R. § 106.37(c)(1). Plaintiffs allege that SCSU provides a disproportionate amount of athletic-based financial aid to male student-athletes over female student-athletes.

         II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On February 26, 2018, the Court issued an order addressing a number of issues in this case. Portz, 297 F.Supp.3d at 929. Relevant here, the Court dismissed Plaintiffs' claims for monetary damages. Id. at 957.

         DISCUSSION

         I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Summary judgment is appropriate where there are no genuine issues of material fact and the moving party can demonstrate that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A fact is material if it might affect the outcome of the suit, and a dispute is genuine if the evidence is such that it could lead a reasonable jury to return a verdict for either party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A court considering a motion for summary judgment must view the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and give that party the benefit of all reasonable inferences to be drawn from those facts. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). The nonmoving party may ...


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