Brown University settles Title IX lawsuit with female student athletes

Brown University and female student-athletes settled a Title IX lawsuit objecting to Brown’s elimination of multiple female sports teams.

Brown had previously cut 11 sports teams due to COVID-induced budgetary concerns.

Brown University and a group of female student-athletes settled a Title IX lawsuit that followed Brown’s elimination of multiple female sports teams. 

As Campus Reform previously reported in June, Brown announced its decision to eliminate five men’s and six women’s varsity sports teams in light of financial pitfalls induced by COVID-19. Among other programs, the university demoted the women’s fencing, skiing, squash, and equestrian teams to club status.

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In response, female student-athletes filed a federal class-action lawsuit, stating that the university failed to comply with Title IX — a Department of Education policy ensuring that sex cannot be a basis for discrimination in any education program or activity receiving federal dollars.

The lawsuit cited a 1998 Joint Agreement in which Brown promised to retain a variance between female undergraduates and female undergraduate athletic opportunities lower than 3.5 percent.

The lawsuit called the university’s decision to cut five women’s varsity teams “a gross and willful violation of the Joint Agreement to the immediate and irreparable harm of the class.”

According to the Rhode Island ACLU, which assisted in the lawsuit, the court preliminarily approved a settlement agreement in September that would reinstate women’s equestrian and one additional team to varsity status. 

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The agreement stated that “if Brown restores to varsity status a men’s team that had been slated to transition from varsity to club status… then the total number of women’s teams restored to varsity status must be at least two greater than the number of men’s teams restored.”

U.S. District Court Chief Judge John McConnell concluded in December that the settlement was “fair, adequate and reasonable.”  

Campus Reform reached out to Brown University for comment and will update this article accordingly.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @BenZeisloft