W&M reinstates women’s sports teams to comply with Title IX

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Seven W&M sports program would be cut starting in the 2021-2022 year: Men's and women's gymnastics; men's and women's swimming; men's indoor and outdoor track & field; and women's volleyball. Pictured is Mary Graceyn Gordon, 2020. (WYDaily/Courtesy of Tribe Athletics)
Seven W&M sports program would be cut starting in the 2021-2022 year: Men’s and women’s gymnastics; men’s and women’s swimming; men’s indoor and outdoor track & field; and women’s volleyball. Pictured is Mary Graceyn Gordon, 2020. (WYDaily/Courtesy of Tribe Athletics)

William & Mary has reinstated women’s swimming, gymnastics and volleyball teams after being threatened with a Title IX lawsuit.

The university announced the decision to the student-athletes via Zoom Monday.

“This is a major victory for gender equity, everyone at William & Mary, and all who care about fairness and the law,” Arthur Bryant, attorney at Bailey & Glasser LLP, who represented the women’s sports teams, said in a prepared statement. “The school has decided to do the right thing: reinstate the women’s gymnastics, swimming, and volleyball teams; create a detailed plan to ensure gender equity; and commit to get into compliance with all aspects of Title IX in two years.”

“The women student-athletes at William & Mary are finally going to get the equal treatment they deserve—and the law requires.”

In addition, the college will develop a “Gender Equity Plan” and become fully compliant with Title IX by 2022-2023 academic year, according to a news release from the law firm.

“We are extremely proud to represent the women athletes at William & Mary and extremely pleased to have achieved this great result,” said Lori Bullock of Newkirk Zwagerman in Des Moines, Iowa, co-counsel with Bryant. “These are extraordinary young women. We are glad William & Mary saw the light and is going to ensure gender equity going forward. We hope everyone in the William & Mary community participates in the process to develop its Gender Equity Plan.”

“After a detailed review, Interim Director of Athletics Jeremy Martin concluded that attainment of the anticipated roster adjustments was uncertain and the plan would not achieve equity in participation by next fall,” according to a statement from W&M. “To bring about decisive progress more swiftly, the three women’s sports would need to be restored.”

To comply with the Title IX, the university plans to reduce the men’s sports teams rosters or a “swift and significant increase for participation opportunities for women, or both.”

“Achieving gender equity for the department has been an important goal throughout this process – one of the three critical challenges we aimed to address,” W&M President Katherine Rowe said in a prepared statement. “We appreciate the question was pressed, and it prompted us to dig deeper and determine if the previous plan went far enough or fast enough.”

While the women’s teams are reinstated, Martin noted in a prepared statement the men’s teams will not be reinstated immediately.

“The Department of Athletics and University Advancement will work with the Tribe Club and the W&M Foundation to identify the financial needs of every varsity sport going forward, set targets and renew efforts to raise funds to sustain those programs,” Martin said.

The college had cut the sports teams due to the financial concerns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.

The news comes after the resignation of Tribe Athletics Director Samantha Huge following William & Mary’s decision to cut seven varsity sports teams.

On Sept. 3, Huge, W&M President Katherine Rowe and Provost Peggy Agouris announced the men’s swimming, gymnastics and outdoor and indoor track teams and the women’s swimming, volleyball and gymnastics teams would be cut effective in the 2021-2022 school year.

That sparked outcry from the college community and led to the discovery of the open letter which was partially plagiarized from Stanford University’s open letter.

Bryant threatened to file a Title IX lawsuit against the college.

A W&M faculty member called for a vote of no confidence in Huge’s leadership, citing the plagiarism and lack of communication with the college faculty about the decision to cut the sports teams.

Huge resigned less an hour before the motion for a vote of no confidence faculty meeting.

Here’s the timeline of events — from the cutting of the programs to Huge’s resignation.

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