Dartmouth reinstates five sports teams, citing Title IX compliance

by Addison Dick , Lili Stern and Emily Lu | 1/29/21 1:15pm

lichen-swim-dive-courtesy
Source: Courtesy of Isabella Lichen '22

College President Phil Hanlon announced the reinstatement of five athletic teams — men’s and women’s golf, men’s lightweight rowing and men’s and women’s swimming and diving — in an email Friday morning. 

The programs, which the College cut last July due to admissions and budgetary constraints, will be reinstated through at least 2024-2025, pending a Title IX review. Earlier this month, Arthur Bryant, a lawyer hired by the women’s swimming and diving and women’s golf teams, alleged that the cuts left Dartmouth in violation of Title IX. On Thursday, the College settled with Bryant’s firm, Bailey & Glasser, agreeing to reverse its decision, conduct a gender equity review of its athletics programs and reimburse the firm over $100,000 in legal fees.

Hanlon wrote in a campus-wide email that “elements of the data that Athletics used to confirm continued Title IX compliance may not have been complete.”

The cuts in July were devised by athletics director Harry Sheehy in consultation with the Dartmouth Athletic Advisory Board, after Hanlon tasked Sheehy with decreasing the number of recruited athletes in each incoming class by 10%. Sheehy indicated in a July interview with The Dartmouth that the cuts would not be reversed.

“Dartmouth screwed up royally,” Bryant wrote in a press release on Friday. “Schools need to get the message: Title IX has been the law for almost 50 years. It guarantees women equal opportunities, athletic financial aid and treatment. If schools don’t provide that, the women can sue — and they will win.”

In December, the women’s swimming and diving and women’s golf teams solicited Bryant’s services to investigate possible Title IX violations. After looking into Dartmouth’s compliance with Title IX, Bryant threatened litigation if the College did not reinstate the teams.

According to the NCAA, an institution can comply with Title IX in any one of three ways: the proportion of female student-athletes is equivalent to the proportion of female undergraduate students; the institution is expanding opportunities for female student-athletes; or the institution is accommodating the interests of female student-athletes. 

Bryant asserted that Dartmouth does not meet the proportionality requirement, though it had been in compliance with Title IX before cutting women’s swimming and diving and women’s golf because it accommodated the interests of female student-athletes and demonstrated a “history and continuing practice of program expansion for the underrepresented sex,” as required by the NCAA. After the cuts, he argued that Dartmouth was no longer in compliance. 

“According to all the numbers I can find — including those that the school has given to the federal government and are verified as accurate by Dartmouth — this is a blatant violation of Title IX,” Bryant said.

While the settlement agreement calls for reinstatement of the women’s teams, the College wrote that it seemed “fair and appropriate” to also reinstate the men’s teams as compliance procedures are being reviewed. 

According to Hanlon’s email, the College has commissioned various reviews to ensure that Dartmouth is “fully compliant with all Title IX, NCAA and Ivy League policies.” A national law firm specializing in Title IX compliance, Holland & Knight, will conduct a gender equity review of Dartmouth’s varsity programs, and the Ivy League will review NCAA compliance at Dartmouth. In addition, Dartmouth’s auditors, PricewaterhouseCoopers, will assess Dartmouth athletics through a process-and-control review. 

According to the email, these reviews will be shared with Hanlon, as well as the Board of Trustees committee on audit and oversight, to produce an action plan ensuring compliance with Title IX and addressing institutional goals of the College. The settlement agreement requires that the gender equity plan be published on the Dartmouth athletics department’s website no later than March 15, 2022.

The search for coaches for the reinstated teams will begin immediately. Coaches who were laid off when the teams were cut will be offered the right of first refusal to regain their positions. Competition and recruitment for the reinstated teams will resume once their coaching staffs are in place, in accordance with COVID-19 restrictions.

Student-athletes from all five teams campaigned for reinstatement throughout the summer and fall. An online petition garnered thousands of signatures, and 20 Dartmouth sports teams signed onto an open letter to Hanlon in support of reinstating the teams. In August, members of the swimming and diving team alleged that the College’s decision to cut the teams discriminated against Asian athletes

The cuts also prompted student-athletes to transfer, and seven members of the women’s swimming and diving team, including five from the Class of 2024, walked on to the women’s rowing team last fall. Meanwhile, other student-athletes have considered joining club sports teams.

“We sincerely apologize that this process has been, and continues to be, so painful to our current and former student-athletes and all who support them,” Hanlon wrote in his email to the Dartmouth community.

Although the men’s and women’s golf teams will be reinstated, the Hanover Country Club will remain closed. The golf teams will rely on other local courses until a plan from the College is finalized. 

Athletes on all five teams, who were informed of their teams’ reinstatement in an earlier email from Hanlon on Friday morning, will meet with Hanlon on Friday evening to discuss details of reinstatement and the transition back into each program. 

Andrew Doerr and Matt Krivan contributed reporting.

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