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Colby College and five female student athletes who last year filed a lawsuit against the college under Title IX, the federal act prohibiting gender discrimination in athletics, announced that they have reached a settlement. The settlement ends the case by agreement, rather than having the court decide the issues raised in the lawsuit. The agreement is constructed to ensure equity between men’s and women’s teams.
Under the agreement the college will adjust coaching duties in two instances where one individual is head coach of two varsity women’s teams and will remodel the women’s locker room facility known as the Kellett Suite. In other areas addressed in the students’ lawsuit, Colby has agreed to establish and/or maintain policies, practices and systems to ensure equivalent programs for men’s and women’s teams to ensure parity in expenditures, equipment, uniforms, travel, services, practice arrangements and competition times.
The settlement specifically calls for Colby to split the head coaching assignment of either the women’s soccer/hockey coach or the field hockey/lacrosse coach by the fall of 2004. In addition, before the fall of 2005 Colby will analyze and address coaching assignments for the dual head coaching assignment that is not addressed in the fall of 2004. “By 2005, Colby will look at whether to split those two head coaching assignments between two individuals or to adjust head coaching assignments of men’s teams to provide additional balance between the women’s and men’s programs,” said Jerrol Crouter of Drummond Woodsum & MacMahon, the college’s legal counsel in the case.
In June 2003 five students–Wendy Bonner, Kristin Putnam, Heather DeVito, Adrienne LeClair and Rebecca Avrutin–brought suit in U.S. District Court alleging that Colby was in violation of Title IX. The students, all varsity athletes, claimed that Colby’s men’s teams received favorable treatment compared to women’s in matters related to funding, equipment and uniforms, travel and per diem expenses, coaching and facilities. The out-of-court settlement terminates the lawsuit.
While some of Colby’s women’s team locker rooms were found to mirror men’s facilities, the parties agreed that the Kellett Suite, which serves a number of women’s teams each season, could be improved to eliminate bottlenecks that occur when several teams finish practice at the same time. The remedy will include renovations to the facility and doubling the number of showers serving that area.
“We absolutely agree that Colby must treat men and women equitably,” said Stephen Collins, Colby’s spokesperson. “In reaching this accord, the college and the students involved concur that there is no better time than the present to address these important issues in a collaborative effort to improve Colby’s overall athletics program,” Collins said.
Sam Schiller of Schiller Law Firm and Professor Ray Yasser of the University of Tulsa College of Law have teamed up to handle dozens of Title IX cases throughout the country. They congratulated the college for its response to this lawsuit. “Early on after the lawsuit was filed the college recognized the importance of addressing the students’ concerns in a cooperative effort,” said Yasser. Added Schiller, “Ultimately these cases are about fairness. While the plaintiffs were firm in their dedication to ensure equity for generations of female athletes to come, they had no interest in trying to micromanage the college’s athletics program. By working together the plaintiffs and the college have done that. Everyone has come out of this a winner.”