Fighting for Women's Equality

Student-Athletes Benefit From Title IX Women in Sports Equity Settlement Fund

May 27, 2011 | by

SAN FRANCISCO, Friday, May 20, 2011 – New rugby rucking pads; new field hockey uniforms; new coach’s salary; travel costs associated with competing at the national level. These are just some of the benefits women club athletes at UC Davis received this past year. As the school year closes, these athletes enjoy the fruits of efforts by female students who sued to enforce Title IX on campus just a few years ago.

Thanks to funding by the Women in Sports Equity (WISE) Fund, a key term of the 2009 resolution of a Title IX lawsuit against the University, club teams with developing women athletes were ecstatic to receive funding for perks they would either have to pay for themselves or do without.

The WISE Fund was borne out of Brust v. Regents of the University of California, a class action suit brought by women club athletes against UC Davis that alleged that women were getting too few intercollegiate athletic opportunities.

“We are very excited that this key term of our Title IX suit continues to benefit women athletes at Davis,” stated Noreen Farrell, Managing Attorney at Equal Rights Advocates.

ERA served as co-counsel for the athletes, along with the Sturdevant Law Firm and Equity Legal. The agreed-upon Brust settlement also sets out a 10-year plan for UC Davis to reach specific proportions of male and female athletes by the 2019-20 school year. The university will either add women’s intercollegiate teams or will take other measures to ensure equal accommodation of student interest in varsity sports. UC Davis has also agreed to contribute $110,000 to a fund for the development of club sports, which the plaintiffs will distribute consistent with the purposes of the lawsuit.

The suit, Brust v. Regents of the University of California, was filed as a companion class action case to a still pending Title IX suit filed by women wrestlers in 2003, who challenge discrimination they faced at Davis arising from their removal from the varsity wrestling program. The wrestler case, Mansourian v. Regents of the University of California, proceeds to trial starting Monday at a federal court in Sacramento. ERA, the Sturdevant Law Firm, Equity Legal, and the law firm of Duckworth, Peters, Lebowitz Olivier LLP also represent plaintiffs in the Mansourian case.

The WISE Fund, administered by the Women’s Foundation of California, awarded several grants for team-related expenses to club sport teams for the 2010-2011 school year to support development of women athletes. The recipients ranged from women’s rugby to women’s field hockey club teams. The fund was lauded by UC Davis club lacrosse team members Miriam Kolni and Alexandra Pene.

“The WISE Fund provided us with the funds to travel to Georgia and to play against higher ranking teams that we would otherwise have been unable to play,” said Alexandra Pene, a junior and lacrosse club team member. “Playing higher ranking teams, increased our ranking, which allowed us to become a leading contender at the top in the nation.”

“Most of the time you see men lacrosse teams playing on ESPN, so that is what the public sees,” said Pene. “But I think more and more girls are playing sports and it’s just as important to have those opportunities available to them as it would be for boys.” Having the support also freed up students’ time to focus on academics “instead of stressing out over funding for your team’s next competition,” as both Pene and Kolni said.

Kelsey Brust, lead plaintiff in the Brust case that led to the establishment of the WISE Fund, stated, “While the WISE Funds will one day be spent, I am proud that our Title IX suit made a difference at Davis and that other women will continue to benefit from it for years to come.” As noted by ERA’s Noreen Farrell, “Although we have made great progress, our work continues to ensure an equal education for the young men and women who will be our leaders tomorrow.”

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