William and Mary (W&M) announced Monday it is reinstating the women’s swimming, gymnastics and volleyball sports programs after a group of lawyers representing student-athletes on those teams threatened to sue the university in violation of Title IX compliance.
This all stems from the decision last month by former W&M athletics director Samantha Huge to cut seven sports teams at the end of the current academic year because of large budget deficits as a result of COVID-19.
In September, Arthur Bryant, from the firm Bailey & Glasser, LLP and lead counsel for the women student-athletes, wrote a letter to W&M president Katherine Rowe that the legal team intended on filing a class action lawsuit against the university for being in violation of Title IX standards if those sports programs were not reinstated.
In a release put out by W&M on Monday, the suit was acknowledged as a reason the three sports were reinstated.
“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,” the release read. “To bring about decisive progress more swiftly, the three women’s sports would need to be restored.
“Accordingly, the university is reinstating Women’s Gymnastics, Women’s Swimming and Women’s Volleyball, which will continue as Division I varsity sports.”
After the decision was announced, Bryant called it “a major victory for gender equity, everyone at William & Mary, and all who care about fairness and the law,” according to a news release from the law firm.
Nevertheless, Martin said that there was no clear or easy way to immediately reinstate the other suspended sports programs of men’s indoor and outdoor track and field, swimming and gymnastics, according to the W&M release.
“We know that this process has caused pain. We will need to continue rebuilding trust by our actions going forward,” Martin said. “We have moved quickly over the last week to meet with students, coaches and alumni groups supporting alternative solutions for all the affected teams. We remain committed to that effort.”
W&M English professor Suzanne Hagedorn, who was going to hold a vote of no confidence for Huge before she eventually resigned, told The Virginia Star applauded the reinstatement, but brought up the fact that the Title IX issues were pointed out when the cuts were originally made last month and the four men’s teams still suspended.
As part of the faculty-led effort to remedy these issues, Hagedorn and other colleagues drafted motions to be considered at a special meeting of the W&M Faculty Assembly – a 21-member body consisting of professors from all academic departments.
During that faculty assembly meeting, which took place on Tuesday afternoon via Zoom call, the body approved an amended version of Hagedorn’s motion recommending the establishment of an athletics task force charged with examining W&M’s initial decision to cut seven programs as well as Monday’s decision.
If the recommendation is taken up by the university, the task force would include faculty, regular students and athletes, alumni, members of school administration and members of the local community.
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Jacob Taylor is a reporter at The Virginia Star and the Star News Digital Network. Follow Jacob on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “William & Mary Women’s Volleyball Team” by William & Mary Women’s Volleyball Team.