Merrimack College, a Division II institution in Massachusetts, has settled a gender-discrimination complaint against its athletics department by agreeing to create six women’s teams, including an ice-hockey squad that will compete at the Division I level. The new teams will increase the number of athletic opportunities for women by more than 80, making the share of female athletes “substantially proportional” to the percentage of women in the student body—a key measure of compliance with federal gender-equity law.
Under the settlement, which was announced on Monday evening by the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights, the college will also increase its financial aid to female athletes.
The settlement followed a review by the civil-rights office of the college’s compliance with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which bars discrimination against women at colleges that receive federal aid. In a news release, the department noted that the college’s leaders had “worked collaboratively” in reversing its prior record of inequitable treatment of its female athletes.
The settlement is the latest in a series that the civil-rights office has reached with colleges accused of gender bias in sports, including Yale University, Ball State University, and Lincoln Land Community College. The agreements are part of a more aggressive enforcement of Title IX by the civil-rights office under the Obama administration, including a reversal of a Bush-era policy that eased compliance with the gender-equity law.