The American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island and Public Justice, a legal advocacy organization, jointly filed a motion in Rhode Island district court arguing that Brown University’s recent decision to eliminate five women’s varsity sports is in violation of a 1992 settlement agreement.
The organizations argue in their filing that the cuts will result in the university failing to provide athletic opportunities for women students that are proportionate to their enrollment numbers, a joint release said. Providing such opportunities is a requirement of a settlement of a lawsuit brought by women athletes against Brown nearly three decades ago for violations under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the law prohibiting sex discrimination in federally funded institutions.
Brown’s restructuring of its athletics department originally eliminated six men’s sports, but men’s track and field and cross-country were reinstated due to concerns about the impact of the program cuts on racial diversity. The university's plans involve elevating women’s and coed sailing teams to varsity status, which officials expect will keep Brown in compliance with the 1992 agreement. But the motion filed on June 29 by the ACLU of Rhode Island, where brown is located, and Public Justice argues the requirements cannot be met by varsity teams that do not yet exist and where gender participation numbers are unknown.
Brian Clark, a spokesperson for Brown, said in an email that the groups that filed the motion are “asking Brown to see into the future” and provide numbers on how many women will participate in sailing, during a time when enrollment and fall athletic competition are uncertain due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Today’s motion is a pre-emptive legal action asserting a hypothetical violation that has not taken place -- and Brown would not allow this speculative scenario to emerge in future athletic seasons,” Clark wrote. “Having closely assessed roster sizes for our revised lineup of varsity teams, we are confident that the proportion of women athletes will be in compliance with both the Cohen joint agreement and Title IX for the upcoming athletic seasons.”