Title IX Settlements

11.16.2020

Bailey Glasser has recently won important settlements for female student-athletes at two major universities that announced they were eliminating the women’s varsity intercollegiate athletic teams. In both cases, Bailey Glasser and its co-counsel reached settlements enforcing Title IX – the federal law prohibiting gender discrimination by educational institutions receiving federal funds – and requiring the schools to reinstate the women’s teams.

In June 2020, Brown University announced that it was eliminating five women’s teams and three women’s teams, including twice as many women as men, from its intercollegiate athletic program. Bailey Glasser’s Arthur Bryant was co-counsel in a 1992 landmark Title IX case against Brown for discriminating against its women athletes and potential athletes. The long-standing 1998 settlement agreement in that case, Cohen v Brown University, provided that, if Brown eliminated any women’s team, its male and female intercollegiate athletic participation rates would have to be within 2.25% of their undergraduate enrollment rates. The announced changes would have violated that provision.

In a motion filed in the federal district court of Rhode Island, Bailey Glasser and its co-counsel moved to enforce the settlement agreement and hold Brown accountable for violating the Title IX requirement that “intercollegiate level participation opportunities for male and female students are provided in numbers substantially proportionate to their respective enrollments.”

After months of litigation – including the discovery and exposure of explosive internal Brown emails – Brown University agreed to reinstate its women’s varsity equestrian and fencing teams. It further agreed to maintain full support for those teams and not to reduce their future support as compared to men’s teams’ support. Brown also agreed not to eliminate or reduce the status of any women’s varsity team or add any men’s team for at least the next four years, during which the University will be required to continue to comply with the consent decree it first agreed to in 1998. 

The proposed settlement was announced on September 23, 2020. It is scheduled for a final approval hearing on December 15, 2020. While the Brown University litigation was taking place, Bailey Glasser also challenged the College of William & Mary’s efforts to violate Title IX by eliminating women’s teams.

On September 3, 2020, William & Mary announced that it was eliminating its women’s varsity gymnastics, swimming, and volleyball teams—and its men’s varsity gymnastics, swimming, and track and field teams—effective at the end of the 2020-21 academic year. 

On September 23, 2020, Bailey Glasser’s Arthur Bryant, lead counsel for the women student-athletes, wrote to William & Mary President Katherine Rowe, told her he represented women on the three teams, and informed her that the elimination of those teams violated Title IX. His letter said that, if the school did not reinstate and continue the teams, he and his legal team would file a class action lawsuit in federal court to prevent their elimination and to hold William & Mary accountable for violating Title IX by depriving women athletes and potential athletes of equal opportunities, athletic financial aid, and treatment.

Bryant had previously threatened to sue William & Mary for violating Title IX in 1991, when it decided to eliminate its women’s basketball and swimming teams, along with its men’s swimming and wrestling teams. The school had quickly reinstated all four teams.

This time, a more far-reaching victory was reached. On October 19, 2020, to avoid being sued, William & Mary agreed to reinstate its women’s gymnastics, swimming, and volleyball teams, develop a Gender Equity Plan, and bring its intercollegiate athletics program into compliance with all aspects of Title IX by the 2022-23 academic year. Then, on November 5, 2020, the school announced it was reinstating the men’s teams, too.

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