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Six of one...

In the 2000 election, Ralph Nader declared repeatedly (to some applause and much more derision) that there was no difference between Bush and Gore, or indeed between the Republican and Democratic parties in general. Of course, by that Nader meant that Gore and the Democratic party were conservative, just like the Republicans. They both favored NAFTA and globalization, after all, and both accepted "soft money" campaign contributions, and neither one spoke about corporations the way the Pope speaks about abortion. There's some truth there. Then again, there's some truth to the argument that there's not much difference between Bush and Gore because the Bush administration is liberal, just like the Democrats. For instance, just to pick one example at random, this headline from the New York Times: Bush Administration Says Title IX Should Stay as It Is.

The reference, of course, is to the law which bans sex discrimination in federally funded programs, and specifically to the portion of it which bans sex discrimination in college sports. When Bush announced a commission to review Title IX, there had been hope in some corners that the law might be amended, and on the left, the liberal advocacy machine had already geared up to blast Bush for wanting to eliminate women's sports and make all women barefoot and pregnant. But Bush, the supposed conservative right-wing extremist who wants to destroy everything good and decent in America, ultimately did nothing.

By the way, you've got to love the New York Times' idea of balance in reporting:

The National Women's Law Center says Title IX has led to increases of women's participation in sports of more than 400 percent in colleges and of more than 800 percent in high schools. But Title IX supporters point out statistical equality has not been achieved; 56 percent of college students are women and 42 percent of the athletes are women.
They quote supporters of the law to point out how important Title IX is, and contrast them with... supporters of the law who think it doesn't go far enough. They couldn't bother to find people who think that Title IX goes too far and is seriously misguided when applied to sports?

Title IX is one of those government programs that sounds perfectly fine on its face, if one doesn't follow the news enough to know how the program has been implemented. In theory, the law (and Department of Education bureaucracy in charge of enforcing it) allows three ways for colleges to comply with the anti-discrimination provisions. One is proportionality -- having the percentage of female athletes match the percentage of females in the student body. Another is to be continually increasing the size of women's sports programs until proportionality is reached. The third is to meet all the demand of female students.

In reality, colleges have found that cutting men's sports programs (and budgets) and giving the resulting money to women's sports is the only practical way to comply with the law. Obviously, they could increase women's sports budgets without cutting men's... if they could find a source of free money sitting around waiting to be claimed. Since we don't live in the land of tooth fairies and Easter bunnies, that isn't a realistic option.

Of course, schools could address the actual wishes of students -- except that they can't. The problem is that in the most significant court case on Title IX, Cohen v. Brown University, the First Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Brown's attempt to show that they were meeting all needs:

We view Brown's argument that women are less interested than men in participating in intercollegiate athletics, as well as its conclusion that institutions should be required to accommodate the interests and abilities of its female students only to the extent that it accommodates the interests and abilities of its male students, with great suspicion. To assert that Title IX permits institutions to provide fewer athletics participation opportunities for women than for men, based upon the premise that women are less interested in sports than are men, is (among other things) to ignore the fact that Title IX was enacted in order to remedy discrimination that results from stereotyped notions of women's interests and abilities.
Title IX does permit institutions to provide fewer athletics participation opportunities for women than for men, if women are less interested. Brown didn't merely take that as a "premise"; Brown proved it with actual statistics. The judges, though, didn't care, substituting their prejudices for the law.
We conclude that, even if it can be empirically demonstrated that, at a particular time, women have less interest in sports than do men, such evidence, standing alone, cannot justify providing fewer athletics opportunities for women than for men.
In short, as courts have decided to enforce the law, schools have to provide opportunities for women whether women want those opportunities or not -- meaning that the only realistic option remains to cut men's programs. Which is why many people are opposed to Title IX. But the New York Times buried that argument, and the supposedly right-wing Bush administration ignored it.


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Comments (4)

Partha Mazumdar:

I wonder if this is true: "colleges have found that cutting men's sports programs (and budgets) and giving the resulting money to women's sports is the only practical way to comply with the law."

Certainly colleges have been cutting men's programs and *blaming* Title IX. I wonder, however, if Title IX is the true cause. After all, colleges could, but don't, seem to be cutting all the money they spend on football.


Although the rules were not changed the way they are to be enforced has been changed.

Reynolds emphasized that schools should be aware of their options and that they did not have to use the proportionality standard, which has been most commonly employed.

Reynolds reminded the institutions that his office "does not require quotas" and that strict proportionality is not required if the second or third alternatives are used. That could help men's nonrevenue sports like swimming, wrestling and gymnastics, which have lost teams as colleges have struggled to meet Title IX requirements.

"Nothing in Title IX requires the cutting or reduction of teams in order to demonstrate compliance with Title IX, and the elimination of teams is a disfavored practice," he said in the letter.

If carried out, that is a substantial change because it does away with the requirement for proportionality. If taken to its (il)logical conclusion, proportionality would destroy men's sports since the percentage of women in colleges is higher than men and growing.


By the way Partha, the reason why universities are not cutting "all the money" they spend on football, is, beside the fact that would eliminate the sport, that football brings in money to the university both directly through admissions and indirectly through donations.

I know how much it must irk you and your feminist friends that so much money is being spent on football. After all everything should be equal, right? But if you are really interested in equality, then you would be more concerned about the fact that more women are admitted to colleges than men. After all, what could be more unequal than that?

I don't understand your argument, Partha. You're saying that schools don't have to cut men's sports to comply with Title IX -- they could just cut football, instead? Isn't that like saying I don't have to give up dessert to diet -- I could just give up cake instead?

And "Richard," proportionality has been imposed by the courts, so it doesn't really matter what the DoEd says they'll do.


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