In 1991, Brown University announced that four varsity sports, including women’s volleyball and gymnastics, would have their funding cut forcing them to become varsity club sports. In 1992, after repeated attempts to rectify an alleged budget issue, thirteen female student athletes brought suit against the University stating that the University was in violation of the 1972 Title IX legislation that stipulated that there be no gender-based discrimination in any federally funded educational activity.
In this interview, gymnasts Amy Cohen, class of 1992, Lisa Stern Kaplowitz, class of 1995, and Jennifer Hsu Todd, class of 1995, discuss their experiences as plaintiffs in the Title IX case, Cohen et. al. v. Brown University.
The interviewees begin by introducing themselves, sharing some personal background information, and explaining their reasons for deciding to attend Brown University. They cite reasons including word of mouth, the gymnastic team’s record, and positive experiences during visits. Kaplowitz and Todd go on to explain that they were notified of the gymnastic team’s demotion from varsity to club sport just before arriving on campus and they talk about why they decided to attend anyway.
They all share their earliest memories of their time on campus and they talk about the close-knit athletics community. They describe their various efforts to raise money to continue competing as a club varsity team. When their repeated efforts to regain university support failed, Cohen, Kaplowitz, and Todd reflect on filing the lawsuit and how it impacted their time on campus and their lives after graduation. They discuss working with lawyers when not training for gymnastics or doing coursework and facing backlash in the Brown Daily Herald and from fellow athletes. They also explain feeling concerned that news of their involvement could damage their careers.
In closing, they each discuss the courses their careers took after Brown and since the lawsuit ended. They emphasize that they look back fondly on their time at Brown and see their work on the suit as something that helped them find their voices and allowed them to fight for what was right.