LHU agrees to add, support more women’s sports
Three-year-old federal Title IX?lawsuit settled
WILLIAMSPORT – Lock Haven University has agreed to provide more opportunities for women to participate in sports.
It did so without admission of liability to settle a nearly three-year-old federal lawsuit that accused the university of violating the equal protection clause of Title IX.
The agreement filed Monday awaits the approval of U.S. Middle District Judge Matthew W. Brann who in a May opinion stated Lock Haven had not effectively accommodated female students’ athletic interests and abilities.
As part of the settlement, Lock Haven agrees to support, promote and recruit for women’s varsity tennis, wrestling and golf teams with the goal of adding 30 to 35 female athletes.
Tennis and wrestling teams already have been established. A search is underway for a golf coach so that team can begin play in the fall.
Under terms of the settlement, the university also agrees to:
— Maintain a Division I female field hockey team as long as men’s wrestling is kept at that level. There were plans to demote the field hockey team to Division II.
— Inform female students in collaboration with Student Auxiliary Services of the participation opportunities in club teams including the possibility of re-establish rugby.
— Afford electronic media opportunities to women’s varsity teams based on the same percentage of competitions as the men’s teams. Included would be weekly shows for the field hockey and wrestling coaches.
— Provisions detailing use and upgrades of women’s varsity locker rooms and other facilities especially those used by the field hockey team.
The agreement acknowledges efforts by Lock Haven in 2018 and 2019 through scholarships and updated facilities to enhance opportunities for female athletes.
Brann in his May opinion pointed out no women’s teams had been added in the past 20 years although club teams repeatedly requested elevation to varsity status.
The commonwealth, on behalf of Lock Haven, will pay $350,000 to cover the legal fees incurred by the Women’s Law Project and the law firm of Steinbacher Goodall and Yurchak in litigating the case.
Eight female athletes filed suit in 2017 in an effort to prevent the university in a cost-cutting move from eliminating the women’s swim team and demoting field hockey from Division I to Division II.
An attempt to resolve the issues through mediation failed.
Lock Haven is pleased to have reached a settlement in this case, spokesperson Elizabeth Arnold said.
“The university is committed to expanding opportunities for our female student-athletes, continuing to grow our women’s athletic programs and supporting all our student-athletes throughout their time at The Haven,” she said.
Terry Fromson, an attorney with the Women’s Law Project in Philadelphia, declined comment saying she would wait until Brann approves it.
When the suit was filed she accused Lock Haven of treating its female athletes “like second-class citizens.”