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Dartmouth athletes consider Title IX complaint about program cuts

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 12/18/2020 10:36:10 PM
Modified: 12/18/2020 10:35:57 PM

HANOVER — On July 9, Dartmouth College announced it was cutting five sports from its varsity roster to reduce athletic department expenses and the number of recruited athletes.

Nearly six months later, members of the women’s golf team and the women’s swimming and diving program, which were part of the cuts, have hired a California-based lawyer to look into possible Title IX violations made in the cutbacks.

In a letter sent to Dartmouth president Philip J. Hanlon on Friday, Arthur H. Bryant outlined that the college is in breach of Title IX and Hanlon should reinstate the two programs.

Dartmouth spokeswoman Diana Lawrence confirmed that the college has received the letter and declined further comment. In the July news release, the college assured that it was staying in compliance with Title IX.

Bryant, who was the lead trial counsel in the first Title IX case ever tried against a university for discriminating against women athletes, states in his letter that according to the most recent publicly available data, before the five varsity sports were slashed there was room to add 78 women to reach gender parity between Dartmouth’s athletic teams.

With the July 9 decision, there is still room to add almost 50 women. He also asks that Dartmouth provide the basis for its claim of ensuring compliance with the amendment; if it is true, the student-athletes have no basis to file suit. Bryant will seek a preliminary injunction immediately to reinstate and preserve the two programs, if necessary.

Title IX, enacted by Congress in 1972, prohibits federally funded educational institutions from discriminating against students or employees based on sex. Before Title IX came into law, the NCAA offered no athletic scholarships for women and held no championships for women’s teams.

“This is a lawsuit about discrimination,” Bryant said in a phone interview. “Dartmouth does not have to offer any athletic programs; that would be equality. Nobody would have any opportunities to play. But if Dartmouth is going to offer an athletic program, it is providing equal opportunity for both women and men, and right now it is depriving women of equal opportunity and treatment.”

Bryant explained that all Title IX cases are based on the issue of access, and a three-part test identifies what is being violated. Since the second and third parts cannot be met eliminating an active women’s team, it comes down to the first part.

“The first way is if they provide opportunities that are substantially proportionate to undergraduate enrollment rates,” he said. “They’ve come to define that by the difference of total equality, and what the school is providing is big enough that a team, or two, or three, can fit in that gap. If it’s big enough and the interest in participation in a team is available, then they have to add it or they are not in compliance with part one.”

The letter calls for Dartmouth to respond no later than Tuesday.

“If the numbers we have seen are wrong, of course we want to know that,” he said.

“Otherwise, Dartmouth has two choices: It can put these women’s teams back and be in compliance with Title IX voluntarily, or we can make it do so by going to court.”

Pete Nakos can be reached at pnakos@vnews.com.




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