Cornell Athletes File Suit

Nine Cornell University athletes have filed a suit alleging that their school discriminates against women in its sports program.

The athletes, who are members of the women's gymnastics and fencing teams, say the school eliminated their teams in violation of Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments, which mandates "equal athletic opportunity for members of both sexes.

According to this week's issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education, the lawsuit alleges that Cornell is not in compliance with Title IX in part because the percentage of athletes who are women lags far behind the percentage of women in the student body.

At Cornell, 29 percent of varsity athletes are women while women represent 44 percent of the study body. A similar discrepancy exists at Harvard, where women coaches and athletes have complained that they do not receive equal treatment with men. In the 1991-92 academic year--the most recent for which figures are available, 32 percent of varsity athletes were women while 42 percent of all students were women.

The Cornell suit is the fourth pending action against an Ivy League university. Athletes at Brown, Dartmouth and Pennsylvania have also gone to court to seek redress of their Title IX-related grievances. At Stanford, pressure from athletes forced the athletic department to undertake a major new initiative that will allocate $1 million more a year to women's athletics.

The combined effect of the suits and the Stanford plan may put more pressure on Harvard's athletic department to change its policies towards women athletes.


In February, The Crimson obtained an internal athletic department report which showed that Harvard spent more than twice as much money on men's sports as it spent on women's sports. The report also detailed inequities in areas from practice time to recruiting budgets to team photography.

After strongly defending the athletic department in March, President Neil L. Rudenstine gave an indication in an April interview that he may seek some sort of reform. He identified the comparatively low participation of women in Harvard athletics as a concern, and said increased funding may be a way to foster greater participation.

A report released in May by the National Collegiate Athletic Association said colleges must raise the participation rates of women athletes to mirror the proportion of women among its students.

Cornell Athletic Director Laing E. Kennedy and Harvard Director of Athletics William J. Cleary '56 did not return telephone calls yesterday