PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A federal appeals court on Wednesday upheld a settlement between Brown University and student-athletes who had challenged the Ivy League school’s decision to drop several women’s varsity sports.
The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the university and the athletes who originally sued in letting the settlement stand.
Twelve athletes on the women’s gymnastics and ice hockey teams had asked the court to reject the settlement in the interests of current and future female athletes at Brown.
The settlement, approved by a federal judge in Providence last year, restores the women’s equestrian and women’s fencing teams to varsity status, and calls for an end to a 1998 legal agreement ensuring gender equity in varsity sports at Brown on Aug. 31, 2024.
The legal challenge centered on the Providence school’s decision to reduce several women’s varsity sports teams to club status. Several men’s sports were also reduced to club status, although some were later restored. The student-athletes alleged that the cuts violated the 1998 pact.
The 1998 agreement had stemmed from a legal challenge to Brown’s decision to cut women’s gymnastics and volleyball in the early 1990s. Brown has said that the agreement established unique reporting requirements not faced by any other U.S. college or university. The school is still subject to the federal Title IX law requiring equal opportunities for women in sports.
A university spokesperson said the school is pleased with the court’s decision.
The student-athletes were represented by attorneys with the ACLU of Rhode Island, Public Justice and two private law firms. They called the settlement an important victory for women in scholastic athletics.
“We are pleased to see that the protections for women athletes at Brown achieved by the settlement approved last year remain in place and that Brown’s obligation to hold the line against any more cuts to its women’s program is secure for the remaining life of the agreement,” Public Justice and ACLU cooperating attorney Lynette Labinger said in a statement.