Dartmouth Agrees to Reinstate Cut Programs, Including Men’s and Women’s Swimming

Dartmouth Team - Goldminds Swimming World August 2019

Dartmouth on Friday agreed to reinstate varsity programs that it cut in July, including men’s and women’s swimming, per an agreement first reported by the law firm suing the college over Title IX grievances.

The law firm of Bailey & Glasser LLP reported that Dartmouth agreed to a settlement (pdf) in which women’s golf and men’s and women’s swimming would be reinstated. The school will also conduct a gender equity review of its athletic offerings to be completed by March 15, 2022 and develop a “Gender Equity Plan” to change ensure future changes in athletic offerings don’t run afoul of Title IX.

The robust campaign to save Dartmouth Swimming and Diving announced the decision Friday:

“This is a huge victory for the women at Dartmouth who stood up for their rights, the entire Dartmouth community, and everyone who cares about gender equity and the law,” Bailey Glasser attorney Arthur Bryant, lead counsel for the female student-athletes, said in a press release. “Dartmouth screwed up royally. It publicly announced it was eliminating teams to comply with Title IX when their elimination flagrantly violated Title IX. This is the fifth college in the past few months that illegally eliminated women’s teams and then reinstated them when we confronted them. 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.”

“From this process, and after hearing about other schools’ recent Title IX cases, I came to understand that gender equality is still an issue, even in 2021,” women’s swimming co-captain Maggie Deppe-Walker said. “I also learned that students truly do have a voice that can be used to question even the largest decisions, but that it takes dedication, persistence, and creativity to be heard. I know now that it is not a conflict of interest to stand up to your school on the matter of gender equality, but that, instead, it is a way to make the school you love a place you are proud of.”

The cuts were announced July 9, 2020, which made Dartmouth the only Ivy League institution without varsity swimming. Current team members and alumni, who successfully fended off an attempt to cut the program in the early 1990s, mounted a robust charge to keep the program through fund-raising and awareness campaigns. The move to the courts to contend that the university’s decision to cut sports wasn’t in keeping with Title IX is what finally forced Dartmouth’s hand.

The 2020-21 swim season in the Ivy League was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Friday’s settlement avoids the need for a class action suit, as had been threatened. Part of the gender equity review moving forward will be to solicit input from the teams, a voice that athletes lamented not having in the original axing.

Dartmouth, in confirming the move officially, said that three reviews will take place. The school will contract with Holland & Knight, a law firm with Title IX expertise. The Ivy League will also conduct a compliance review, and Dartmouth will use its auditors at PricewaterhouseCoopers to, “conduct a process-and-control review of Dartmouth Athletics to examine administrative systems to make certain appropriate business practices are being followed and effective governance structures are in place.” (In an ostensibly unrelated move, Dartmouth hired a new associate athletic director of compliance this week.)

“We know that many in our community have been disappointed by the decisions we have made within Athletics and across the institution,” president Philip J. Hanlon said in a statement. “The news that the data used to confirm Title IX compliance in connection with the team eliminations may not have been complete only adds to that disappointment.

“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. Through the actions above, we will make sure that any future decisions will be based on accurate data. Our sincere hope is that these reviews and team reinstatements will create an opportunity for us to come together as a community as we navigate the challenging times ahead.”

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