PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Emails reveal Brown University leaders discussed a strategy to redirect student anger over cutting sports toward an effort to “kill” the 1998 consent agreement that forced the school to treat male and female student-athletes equally.
The emails were released following an order from U.S. District Judge John J. McConnell Jr. in a motion to enforce filed by the ACLU of Rhode Island and Public Justice in June.
That was the first filing in the case since 2004 in the 22-year old consent decree in Cohen vs. Brown University — a title IX case that many say helped bring equality for men and women in college athletics across the country.
At the end of May, Brown released its Excellence in Brown Athletics Initiative that recommended demoting 11 varsity sports to club status.
The decision prompted outrage from athletes who committed to Brown to play their respective sports. Many claimed the decision came without warning and did not leave students enough time to transfer to other institutions to continue their collegiate athletic careers.
On June 4, about a week after the decision to reassign the teams, Brown Chancellor Samuel Mencoff sent a suggestion to President Christina Paxson, starting his email with, “But here’s an idea.”
“Could we use this moment, where anger and frustration, especially from track and squash, are intense and building to go after the consent decree once and for all?” Mencoff asked. “Could we channel all this emotion away from anger at Brown to anger at the court and kill this pestilential thing?”
The next day, Paxson responded, and “agreed” with Mencoff’s approach, according to the plaintiffs.
“This might be the perfect moment to petition the court to get us out of this agreement,” Paxson wrote to Mencoff. “The question would be how quickly can we do this.”
In a statement, Brown spokesman Brian Clark accused the plaintiffs of “using snippets from documents taken out of context to develop a public narrative in lieu of a viable legal claim.”
“Brown has an exemplary record of providing varsity athletic opportunities to women, with a record that stands near the top among its peers,” Clark said. “At no time has anyone raised doubt about Brown’s commitment to complying with Title IX. The changes to the varsity roster lineup remain in compliance.”
No future hearings have been scheduled yet in the Title IX case, according to court records.
In a separate federal case, members of Brown’s Men and Women’s squash team filed a lawsuit earlier this month, asking the court to stop the university from implementing the plan to reclassify the sports teams.
A court filing indicates Brown plans on filing a motion to dismiss the squash teams’ complaint.