STORRS, Connecticut (AP) – The University of Connecticut has settled a federal gender equity lawsuit, reaching a deal to maintain its women’s rowing program for at least the next five years.
The lawsuit was filed by 12 rowers after the school announced in June 2020 that the sport would be among several eliminated in budget cuts. A federal judge issued a temporary restraining order in May that prevented the school from dissolving the team.
U.S. District Judge Stephen Underhill ruled the rowers were likely to prevail in their trial, which alleged that eliminating the team would violate Title IX, the federal law that guarantees equal access to women in education, including athletics.
In addition to continuing to row at least until spring 2026, the school on Wednesday agreed to a number of improvements to the program in regulations, including renovating the team’s boathouse and increasing the number. program scholarships from 14 to 20. The school has also agreed to hire three full-time assistant coaches and increase the recruiting budget from $ 7,000 to $ 35,000 per year.
“The university is happy that we were able to resolve this dispute and reach a settlement,” UConn spokeswoman Stephanie Reitz said Thursday. “Our goal is to support this program and move it forward. “
Felice Duffy, lead counsel for the plaintiffs, said that, perhaps more importantly, UConn has also agreed to hire two independent auditors to verify the school’s Title IX compliance each year. These controllers would also approve any school plan aimed at fully complying with the law.
“It’s more important than the rowing team,” she said. “It will help all the sports teams at UConn.”
The school had planned to phase out women’s rowing, men’s swimming and diving, men’s cross country and men’s tennis as part of a plan to cut a sports deficit of around $ 42 million. $ 10 million per year, reducing the need for a grant to the sports department. 25% in three years.
At the time, the school said it considered the civil rights implications before making the decision.
But Underhill found convincing evidence that UConn had inflated the number of participants in its rowing programs and other women to make it appear that it was complying with federal law. He also wrote that the evidence showed UConn had experienced turnout gaps every year for the past 13 years.
Duffy said she hopes other schools will look into this case and give their female athletes real opportunities.
Maggie Mlynek, one of the rowers who filed the lawsuit and has since graduated, said she believed the case would go a long way in solidifying the school’s reputation as a great place for female athletes. and not just for basketball.
“In a time when we really didn’t think there would be a future, we now have everything a rowing team could want or need to be successful,” she said.
UConn rowing coach Jennifer Sanford said she was proud of Mlynek and the 11 other rowers who took legal action because they believed the case was still more about their team.
“They saw the value in fighting for the reinstatement of our program, but also saw beyond, hoping our case would protect other rowing teams across the country from cuts in the future,” she declared. “I am delighted that the University is committed to fully supporting our program and look forward to moving forward, building the program with our current student-athletes and enthusiastic rookies who will represent the University of Connecticut. with pride. “
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