U.S. District Court Chief Judge John McConnell, Jr., approved a stipulated order in Cohen v. Brown University, the landmark Title IX case, requiring Brown University to pay $1,135,000 for the attorneys’ fees and $40,000 for the litigation expenses incurred by the class of women student-athletes who challenged the school’s elimination of women’s teams from its varsity intercollegiate athletics program in June 2020.
“This order should send a message to schools nationwide,” said partner Arthur Bryant of Bailey & Glasser, LLP, class counsel for the women. “Title IX is the law. It prohibits sex discrimination. If schools violate Title IX, they will pay. If schools violate Title IX, refuse to admit it, and fight in the courts, they will pay more. And they’ll still have to comply with the law.”
Class counsel Lynette Labinger, cooperating counsel for the ACLU Foundation of Rhode Island, said, “Countless women locally and nationally have benefitted from the efforts of the women at Brown who have championed this case over three decades through to its current conclusion. We hope that this substantial award, coming after the restoration of two of the women’s teams and the obligation to cut no more, will send a message to all colleges and universities in Rhode Island and elsewhere to carefully examine their athletic programs, renew their commitment to ensure that their women athletes are being treated fairly and equitably, and to recognize that decisions to cut programs to save money may prove more costly than the projected savings themselves.”
In 1992, women student-athletes successfully sued Brown for denying them athletic opportunities provided to Brown’s men, resulting in several precedent-setting decisions that held the school accountable for violating Title IX by depriving women of equal opportunities to participate, and a 1998 consent decree mandating compliance with that law. In 2020, the plaintiff class returned to court, charging that the elimination of five women’s teams violated the 1998 consent decree.