The University of Connecticut is facing a lawsuit unless it reinstates the women’s rowing program that is set to be discontinued after the 2020-21 season.
A group of 23 UConn rowing alumni filed a Title IX complaint in late March. On Monday, Title IX lawyer Felice Duffy sent a letter informing university president Thomas Katsouleas that they will file a class action lawsuit against the university unless the program is reinstated. According to the Hartford Courant, the letter also said the lawyers will immediately seek a preliminary injunction to preserve the status of the team.
“Our clients hope to try to build this community back up through reasonable negotiation,” the letter stated, according to the Courant. “As when faced with the data, it is clear that UConn cannot cut this women’s rowing team. Our clients are ready, however, if necessary, to force the University to do the right thing, as I have done previously.”
“We’re hoping that this can get resolved without going any further than sending the letter,” said UConn rowing assistant coach Kathy Les, who is also an alumna. “We have a big group of rowing alums who are supporting the team through this.
“We had a call Sunday with our rowing community, alums, Title IX experts, parents, friends, family — just an informational meeting. We shared the letters that have been written so far, sent to the board of directors, the president, the athletic director, some of which haven’t gotten a response, some of which did.”
The UConn Board of Trustees voted last June to cut the women’s rowing team along with men’s tennis, men’s swimming and diving, and men’s cross country. The cuts were part of a directive to reduce the athletic department budget by 25 percent annually over the next three years.
Related content: UConn Rowing Alumni File Title IX Complaint Over Cut
On March 29, the rowing alumni filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights against the university. The Connecticut Post reported that the complaint focuses on the implications of cutting the program and claims that the university is inaccurately reporting its compliance with Title IX, a federal law guaranteeing equal participation opportunities for women in education, in its annual reports with the Equity in Athletics Data Analysis.
“UConn used its best efforts to eliminate the fewest possible teams in the review, which included a careful analysis of Title IX compliance,” UConn spokesperson Stephanie Reitz said in an email after the complaint was filed. “While the University certainly understands and appreciates the disappointment of those who supported the Women’s Rowing Team, we are confident that our actions in regard to that team and the other three eliminated teams were consistent with the University’s obligations under Title IX.”