WASHINGTON, D.C.: In a closely watched decision that could spawn a new round of equity actions in women's collegiate sports, the Supreme Court let stand a ruling that Brown University had discriminated against its women athletes when it stripped funding from its women's varsity volleyball and gymnastics teams. The dispute began back in 1991, when the university eliminated the programs, along with men's varsity golf and water polo, as part of a budget reduction plan. Several of the 23 female athletes affected by the cuts sued the school on grounds that it had violated Title IX, the 1972 law credited for revolutionizing women's sports. Brown's attorneys had argued that the school would be forced to cut academic offerings or cut male sports teams to avoid liability or loss of federal funds under Title IX. But the justices, without comment, upheld an appeals court ruling that schools must have "gender parity between its student body and its athletic lineup" or show strong progress in that direction. In Brown's case, at the time of the trial in 1993, 51 percent of the student body were women, while only 38 percent of its intercollegiate varsity athletes were women. The high court's ruling is likely to affect dozens of similar complaints filed with the Education Department's Office of Civil Rights.