Brown University News Bureau

The Brown University News Bureau

1996-1997 index

Distributed April 21, 1997
Contact: Mark Nickel

Cohen v. Brown

U.S. Supreme Court denies Brown's request to hear Title IX appeal

The Supreme Court today declined to grant Brown's petition for a writ of certiorari in a Title IX gender bias in athletics case. This was not a decision on the merits. Brown remains confident that its interpretation of Title IX is correct and that issues raised in the case will ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Brown University learned today that the U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear an appeal of its Title IX gender bias in athletics case. Brown had sought the Supreme Court's review after the First Circuit Court of Appeals had partly upheld and partly overturned a District Court ruling in the case.

"Today's news does not mean the Supreme Court believes the First Circuit has correctly interpreted Title IX," said Beverly E. Ledbetter, vice president and general counsel at Brown. "We continue to believe Brown's position is consistent with the intent of the Title IX statute and is supported by other Supreme Court decisions. The primary issues in this case - particularly the court's definition of proportionality - remain unclarified. We are confident that they ultimately will be considered by the Supreme Court."

Title IX issues have been litigated in the courts of appeals for about five years, Ledbetter observed. That is a relatively short period in the evolution of a legal controversy, and there is every reason to believe that the Supreme Court will hear these issues after more circuits have had an opportunity to consider questions raised by Title IX cases.

As part of its split decision on Brown's appeal, the First Circuit overturned a lower court order that would have required Brown to provide full funding for four women's varsity teams. Instead, the First Circuit said Brown should devise its own plan to meet the lower court's requirements. Earlier today, Brown filed a compliance plan that will bring the gender ratio among athletes to within less than 1 percent of the gender ratio in the overall undergraduate student body. The District Court must now consider approval of the plan.

"We had hoped our appeal would result in the clarification of the law on several issues," said Brown President Vartan Gregorian. "The decision not to hear the case at this time simply postpones rather than clarifies these issues."

"Brown University was an early leader in developing athletic programs for women and continues its national leadership today," said Laura Freid, executive vice president for external affairs. "What is at issue is not our commitment to women's sports or to excellence in women's sports, but the technical question of whether Title IX compliance requires statistical targets. Brown is proud of its record as well as of the records achieved by Brown's women athletes. Nothing that has happened or will happen in any of the courts can change our commitment to an athletic program that aims for excellence and offers men and women an equal opportunity to participate."