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Letters to the Editor, Opinions

Letter: Why Isn’t President Paxson an Amy Cohen?

By
Thursday, September 17, 2020

To The Editor:

Brown took a step toward gender equity in settling its Title IX lawsuit by reinstating two of the five women’s teams that were reduced to club status. But it took another step back by agreeing, as a price for the settlement, to a dissolution in four years of the underlying consent decree governing gender equity in Brown athletics. Unfortunately, the settlement reinforces President Christina Paxson P’19 and the Trustees’ lack of concern for Brown’s values and the careers of Brown’s student-athletes, first revealed by the court. It cannot be said any other way: Brown is weakening its long-term commitment to gender equity. In addition, the settlement leaves three women’s teams out of the agreement, upholding the end of the varsity careers of those women.

I was appalled — and still am — by the shocking sentiment expressed in the newly revealed email exchanges between President Paxson and other officials involved in the recent “Excellence in Athletics” decision, as reported by The Herald on Aug. 27. 

Paxson’s most telling comments were found in her email to Chancellor Sam Mencoff and Committee on Excellence in Athletics Chair Kevin Mundt. In it, she explained her decision to hide from the Brown community her intention to try and overturn Brown’s commitments under the 1998 consent decree in the so-called Amy Cohen lawsuit that found Brown guilty of Title IX violations, writing:

“I expect both of you may have wanted us to be more explicit about our intention to fight the consent decree. Our concern is that this could rile up the (Amy) Cohens of the world and put us in a defensive posture.”

President Paxson seems not to understand that Amy Cohen won her case against Brown.  Brown entered the exact consent decree it is now attempting to skirt in order to affirm its commitment to gender equity in sports and to resolve the lawsuit. President Paxson’s lack of transparency and disrespect for students and the courts are indefensible and incredibly disheartening. 

Which of Brown’s students or alumni are the “(Amy) Cohens” about whom she is worried and who might be riled up by her seeking to overturn the consent decree? Did she mean women? Women athletes? Women athletes who are victims of Brown’s Title IX violations? Anyone who cares about gender equity?

President Paxson should remember that whomever they are, they are part of Brown, and she is obligated to serve them along with Brown’s other students, alumni and stakeholders and not just her own ambitions. Brown’s Trustees should reflect on how Brown got here and how to find a way forward that honors the institution, distinguishes it among its peer institutions and respects its stakeholders.

Alexis Maniatis P’23 can be reached at Alexis.Maniatis@brattle.com. Please send responses to this opinion to letters@browndailyherald.com and op-eds to opinions@browndailyherald.com.

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