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UConn Women’s Rowing Alumni File Title IX Complaint In Hopes of Saving Eliminated Program

Courtesy: UConn Rowing
The UConn women's rowing team competes in the 46th annual Women's Eastern Sprints in Worcester, Mass., in May 2019.

Like most college freshmen, Liz Glomb was hoping to do things a bit differently than she had in high school when she started at the University of Connecticut in 2001. The new chapter inspired her to step away from rowing -- a sport that dominated most of her teenage years. 

“That lasted about a month or maybe less,” Glomb said, laughing. “I missed the camaraderie of being on a team, so I joined the team. And I’m glad I did because my college experience wouldn’t have been the same.” 

That experience will no longer be available to current and future students after UConn decided last summer to eliminate the rowing program as part of budget cuts to the athletics department.   

But now, alumni like Glomb are looking to reinstate it. Twenty-three rowing alumni recently filed a Title IX complaint against the school. 

Title IX, established in 1972, prohibits sex-based discrimination in education programs or related activities that receive federal dollars. One of the requirements of Title IX is that the percentage of a school's male and female athletes must match the percentage of its male and female undergraduate students. 

According to the complaint, UConn is not fulfilling that requirement. 

“We have been talking to Title IX experts, and we understand that there is a big enough gap in the Equity in Athletics Data Analysis numbers that show UConn is out of compliance,” said Dana Haddad, one of the rowing alumni behind the complaint.

Equity in Athletics Data Analysis (EADA) numbers from 2019, the most recent year available, show an 11-number difference between men’s and women’s varsity teams, 387 participants on men’s teams and 398 on women’s teams. While there may have been slightly more women athletes, the number still doesn’t match up with the overall enrollment of undergraduate women. 

“The reason we know those numbers are not accurate is because they are generally reported on the first day of competition, and so you don’t take into account athletes who were cut or added after that date,” Haddad added. 

Haddad rowed with the team from 2008 until 2010 and was the one to press the send button on the complaint. She said the complaint is mostly confidential, but alongside questioning the numbers, alumni included how the termination has affected them. 

Glomb, a Virginia native who rowed all four years of college, said the effect is frustration -- largely because she continues to coach, almost 15 years later, and sees the potential in rowing. But with her alma mater eliminating the program, she finds it challenging to say that to her high school students. 

“It’s hard to tell these girls to continue rowing when a program might not be there in the end. I almost want to tell them to pick a sport that brings in more money,” Glomb added. “I want to say look at UConn or a program like UConn, but I know UConn doesn’t have the program’s back.” 

According to a UConn spokesperson, the university has yet to see the complaint, so it cannot comment. But the university issued a statement addressing the decision to cut the program. 

“The University engaged in a comprehensive review of its athletic program in determining how many and which teams would be eliminated,” the statement reads. “UConn used its best efforts to eliminate as few teams as possible in the review, which included a careful analysis of Title IX compliance. While the University certainly understands and appreciates the disappointment of those who supported the Women’s Rowing Team, we are confident that our actions in regard to that team and the other three eliminated teams were consistent with the University’s obligations under Title IX. Accordingly, the University will not be revisiting the decision to eliminate the Women’s Rowing Team.” 

Haddad said alumni hope the complaint will save the program, but if it doesn’t, the goal is to at least raise awareness. 

“We’re looking for a culture change. We want to enlighten people,” Haddad said. “There is systemic sexism in sports that results in a lack of foundation for female athletes. So we thought the best we could do as alumni was file a complaint like this and show our support.”

Camila Vallejo is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms. She is a bilingual reporter based out of Fairfield County and welcomes all story ideas at cvallejo@ctpublic.org.

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