Women athletic teams across the country have been given a boost in the wake of a federal court ruling on Brown University's sports program.
In a much-anticipated decision, an appeals court decreed last Thursday that the Providence, R.I., school had violated federal regulations government equality in sports. It upheld an earlier decision that applied a strict standard to the way compliance with Title IX, a federal statute that gauges whether schools provide equal opportunities for women on the playing field, is measured.
Under the ruling, colleges must calculate that the number of male and female athletes is strictly proportional to their enrollments at the school rather than use proportionality as a general guideline. The proportionality rule is part of a three-pronged test schools must meet in determining compliance with Title IX, all of which the court upheld.
"The courts have created a very important trend in terms of stopping what was a developing trend of cutting women's sports teams to balance the budget," says Lynette Labinger, lead counsel for the Washington D.C.-based Trial Lawyers for Public Justice, which sued Brown.
The university has indicated it plans to appeal the decision. Officials there maintain there is not enough interest from women students at Brown to create a program that is 52 percent female. The program is now 48 percent female; women made up 38 percent of Brown's athletes when the suit was filed in 1992.