Women’s Rowing Back at UConn

12 July 2021

By Göran R Buckhorn

The University of Connecticut (UConn) has reversed its controversial decision to cut the women’s rowing program.

End of May 2021, HTBS wrote that a U.S. District Judge had put a temporary restraining order on UConn’s attempt to stop the school from dissolving the women’s rowing program.

It was in June 2020, UConn announced that due to the Athletic department having to make a $10 million budget cut, the school was eliminating women’s rowing, men’s swimming and diving, men’s cross country and men’s tennis. The last season would be spring 2021.

Some of the women rowing at UConn and alumnae filed a Title IX lawsuit against the school. In May 2021, U.S. District Judge Stefan Underhill ruled that members of the women’s rowing team at UConn “will suffer irreparable harm in the absence of injunctive relief,” and that there is a “substantial likelihood” that the court will reverse UConn’s decision and allow the program to continue.

According to the Judge Underhill ruling, UConn was not providing “genuine athletic participation opportunities” to female athletes in proportion to the undergraduate student population. An expert witness, Dr. Donna Lopiano, provided a testimony saying that UConn has not complied with Title IX since 2008.

Late Thursday night, UConn announced that the school will keep its women’s rowing program “for at least the next two years.” In a statement, UConn said, “During this time, we will conduct a more detailed assessment of the costs associated with possible program upgrades and work to secure the potential long-term reinstatement of the rowing program.”

UConn also plans to add scholarships, increase the program’s recruiting budget and work to upgrade its equipment and facilities.

“This past year’s team in particular showed great strength, courage, determination, and perseverance as they navigated through the pandemic and the team being cut,” rowing coach Jennifer Sanford told Associated Press. “The returning rowers and coaching staff are going to take full advantage of this opportunity.”

Sanford said she is excited to work with the school to restore the program and expressed pride in the fight put up by her team and its alumnae.

Ashley Kalinauskas, who was among a group of rowing alumnae that filed an initial Title IX complaint with the U.S. Education Department over the decision to eliminate the program, said that the group is planning to provide financial support to help make any needed improvements to the facilities and keep the rowing program going.

“Not only UConn alumni, but rowing alumni from across the country, we all came together to support this team, Kalinauskas said. “It’s about being able to have equitable sports for women.”

“UConn takes pride in being a destination school for female athletes and as we continually review our responsibilities under Title IX, we will work to support the rowing team in its upcoming seasons,” the school said in a statement.

That UConn says that it “takes pride in being a destination school for female athletes” sounds bogus to me. Maybe UConn suddenly started doing it last Thursday evening then? Title IX of the Education Amendments Act is a federal law since 1972, so UConn has had 49 years to review their responsibilities toward women. High time to start now, UConn.

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