Resolution in Title IX Complaint:
Resources for Women's Athletics

The complaint, filed in May 1994 with the Office of Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education in Philadelphia, challenged the University's compliance with Title IX of the Education Amendments to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title IX provides that women and men must have equal opportunity to participate in collegiate athletic programs. The complaint alleged that Penn failed to meet this standard.

This May, the University and the Women's Law Project invited Fred Shabel, chairman of Spectacor and former athletic director and former vice president for facilities at the University, to facilitate negotiations that led to the settlement. Carol Tracy, executive director of the Women's Law Project, praised him, saying "Fred's reputation for fairness and his talent as a negotiator reinforced the sense of trust that was necessary to reach a creative resolution."

Commenting on the settlement, Mr. Shabel said, "I joined these negotiations because it was clear to me that all the parties wanted to resolve the complaint and improve conditions for student athletes. The University and the Women's Law Project have worked very hard to reach this settlement. Both sides have shown continuous good faith in our negotiations and a tremendous spirit of cooperation. I am very pleased with the result."

While certain provisions of the settlement agreement are confidential, according to Steve Bilsky, the University's athletic director, "major terms provide for the rehabilitation, over the next two years, of locker rooms that house women's teams, as well as weight and training rooms used by men and women athletes. The University's boathouse also will be improved. These improvements will benefit facilities that have aged and are in real need of repair. The improvements represent a substantial financial commitment on the part of the University, and will reinforce our ability to provide equal opportunity for women and men in athletics at Penn.

In addition to improvements in athletic facilities, according to Mr. Bilsky, the settlement agreement provides that part-time head coaches of women's squash and gymnastics will be made full-time. A part-time assistant coach of field hockey and lacrosse will also be made full-time, and the University will add new part-time assistant coaches for women's crew and lacrosse. New equipment will be provided for several women's programs, Mr. Bilsky added, "and we will continue our efforts to see that policies and procedures in the athletic department are designed to give men and women equal opportunity in Penn athletics."

Ms.Tracy applauded the University's plans. "Equity in athletics is a major and controversial issue at most colleges and universities today. In this case, however, there has been unprecedented cooperation between the University and the women coaches and athletes in reaching this settlement," she said.

"The University is taking action to satisfy the legitimate interests of its women students and coaches," Ms. Tracy added, "and to provide equal opportunity for all athletes, regardless of gender. We believe this is one of the most constructive and amicable resolutions in a gender equity case."

Olympic gold medalist Carol Bower, head coach of women's crew at the University, said "The spirit, cooperation and effectiveness of the team at Penn that put together the settlement embodies what is best in college athletics. The real bonus is that we will improve conditions for women athletes but not at the expense of male athletes."

To follow the progress of the settlement agreement and to make recommendations about future issues related to gender equity, Mr. Bilsky will appoint a gender equity advisory committee. As a final matter, according to Mr. Bilsky, the settlement agreement provides for a fundraising drive to rehabilitate or develop office space for coaches. "We have agreed that we will only be able to do this if we can raise the money from sources outside the University," he confirmed, "but the coaches, the administration and I are motivated to begin this drive to benefit all coaches and athletic programs at Penn."

The settlement contains no admission by Penn of any violation of Title IX. "We believe firmly that Penn has always complied with federal law," Mr. Bilsky said. "The University agreed to this settlement because we care very deeply about women's athletics and want to avoid unnecessary litigation, and because we believe the improvements in facilities and other changes will be important and beneficial for everyone at Penn."

The Women's Law Project, founded in 1974, is a Philadelphia-based public interest law center dedicated to the advancement of women's legal rights.

-- Barbara Beck, News and Public Affairs