A federal commission finalized its six-month evaluation of Title IX last week, producing several recommendations for the Bush administration to consider regarding gender equity in athletics.
According to the Title IX clause – part of the 1972 Education Amendment – sex discrimination in education is strictly prohibited. As a result, Title IX has been paramount in providing women with athletic opportunities in scholarships, equipment, coaching and facilities commensurate with male counterparts.
The commission’s recommendations include allowing schools to use specific surveys to demonstrate adherence to Title IX, further defining the test of “substantial proportionality,” counting athletes based on allotting set roster numbers for each team and those recruited – eliminating walk-ons – and omitting “nontraditional” students from the undergraduate population count. Nontraditional students typically refer to those who did not attend college directly after high school, and according to The Chronicle of Higher Education, would pose a disadvantage primarily to women.
The findings of the commission have sparked significant debate across the country as to what effect the possible changes could have on female athletes. Some fear alterations to the law may make it easier for universities to skew gender statistics in athletics.
In response to the commission’s suggestions, the National Women’s Law Center in Washington initiated a campaign to “Save Title IX.”
“Some have characterized the commission’s long list of proposed changes as minor and moderate. Nothing could be further from the truth. … If accepted by the Bush administration, the commission’s proposals would dramatically reduce the sports participation opportunities and scholarships to which women and girls are entitled under the law,” said NWLC Co-president Marcia Greenberger, in a statement on the organization’s website.
The commission’s report also has many supporters, including Mike Moyer, executive director of the National Wrestling Coaches Association. “What we’re looking for is a more fair and reasonable way to protect women without hurting men,” he told The Associated Press. Following Title IX’s passage in 1972, some schools were forced to cut men’s teams in order to stay within funding restrictions.
Megan McCallister, University associate athletic director and senior women’s administrator, said the report could be beneficial. “I think it’s very important that we have better definitions to further guidance,” she said.
“Our commitment as an institution is that we will be in full compliance with Title IX, and if it changes in whatever way, shape or form, we are committed to staying in compliance,” she added.
McCallister said that the University operates under a 50/50 proportion of men’s and women’s teams in order to comply with Title IX.
LSA sophomore and water polo player Jessica Falarski said that although she benefits from the current Title IX policies, female athletes do not have as much opportunity as they could.
“There should be equal scholarship and funding opportunities for women,” she said. “Steps should be taken to reevaluate how it is distributed.”
LSA freshman Danny Zeldes disagreed with the University’s current method of compliance. “I think the 50/50 system is horrible. It has disadvantages for men and women. When you have talented athletes, they should have an opportunity to play varsity, regardless of funding or if there are too many teams for their gender,” he said.
Currently, all institutions receiving federal aid are required to meet certain criteria in a three-part test to prove their compliance with Title IX. Schools must either allocate teams based on the proportion of women and men in the undergraduate population, prove a history and continuing practice of commitment to women’s athletics or demonstrate that they are accommodating the interest and abilities of females on campus.
The commission’s final report will be given to Education Secretary Roderick Paige and President Bush by Feb. 28 for further consideration.