FW: Title IX, athletics

From: edequity@phoenix.edc.org
Date: Thu Apr 27 2000 - 17:22:17 EDT

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    Below is a guest column of mine published in The Seattle Times last August
    regarding the perception of Title IX's being responsible for decreasing
    athletic participation for males. I am a Washington State Senator, as well
    as on the faculty at the University of Washington, teaching "Gender Equity
    in Education" for the past 14 years.


    Title IX's success makes it an easy target for misguided criticism
    by State Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles

               The recent World Cup victory by the U.S. women's soccer team has
    been held up as the shining moment in the 27-year history of Title IX,
    prohibits sex discrimination in education.
                President Clinton called the players "Daughters of Title IX",
    indeed, it's gratifying to see such performance excellence on the field
    knowing that it was due, in part, from expanded opportunity for girls to
               Ironically, with Title IX so fully in the spotlight, criticism
    growing, and the landmark civil rights provision is becoming a scapegoat to
    some, supposedly responsible for an "unintended tragedy": that of men's
    sports being cut at colleges and universities because of the need to
    increase women's participation.
               A recent flurry of press and media coverage has claimed that men
    suffering because of Title IX. This isn't fair and it's misleading.
    Additionally, other misconceptions, exaggerations, and outright untruths
    about it have been repeated often enough that they are now becoming part of
    the repertoire of "facts" that just aren't factual.
               First is the myth that Title IX is only about gender equity in
    sports. It's not. Enacted by Congress in 1972 as part of the education
    amendments to the 1964 Civil Rights Act, it covers all programs, services,
    and activities operated by schools and colleges that receive federal funds.
    Not so long ago, pre-Title IX girls and boys were separated in school
    courses, such as home economics for girls and shop classes for boys. There
    were different abilities tests and interest inventories used to help young
    people investigate career options, different criteria for membership in
    honor societies, and even exclusively male and female school clubs.
               However, sports is what pushes people's hot buttons. And with
    ire comes the myth that Title IX is only about gender quotas. Again, this
    isn't fair and it's misleading - it's about equal opportunity to
    participate. A three-pronged test is used by the courts and the U.S.
    for Civil Rights to determine Title IX compliance in sports participation.
    A school can use any one of the prongs in demonstrating compliance:
               substantially proportionate athletic opportunities for male and
    female athletes;
               a history and continuing practice of expanding opportunities for
    under-represented sex; or
               full and effective accommodation of the interests and abilities
    the under-represented sex.
               Schools tend to use the first prong, which is the most
    however, it's not the only one used and it does not have to be used. And,
    in fact, not one school has ever lost federal funding due to non-compliance
    with Title IX.
               Another myth is that Title IX has gone too far, resulting in
    teams being cut. Critics claim that in order to achieve Title IX
    compliance, some schools have had to drop men's teams as there is
    insufficient interest among female students to increase the number of
    women's teams.
               While I agree that cutting teams can be tragic for the athletes
    involved, Title IX should not be blamed. The reality is that cutting men's
    non-revenue-generating sports has been the way many colleges have chosen to
    respond instead of reducing football participation (which with basketball
    consumes 73 percent of the average Division I-A schools' total men's sports
    budgets) or by increasing women's opportunities to bring them up to parity
    with men. But how many football players do we need sitting on the bench as
    compared to providing for men's wrestling, baseball, or swimming which are
    the sports most frequently cut? While we're fortunate that U.W.'s football
    program generates revenue (which helps women's sports programs), 62 percent
    of Division I-A and I-AA football programs have large deficits, not
    surpluses. The truth is that Title IX is not to blame for budget
    constraints nor some schools' priorities that short-change men's minor
    sports in favor of football!
               The fact is, though, that across the country women still lag
    in college athletic participation. In June, the federal General Accounting
    Office released a report on student-athlete participation rates at NCAA
    member schools. Even though between 1985-86 and 1996-97 the total number
    of male undergraduate athletes fell 12 percent while the total number of
    female undergraduate athletes rose 16 percent, women still represent just
    percent of all college athletes. Overall, 9.7 percent of male
    undergraduates are athletes compared to 5.3 percent of female
    undergraduates. The goal for these and all schools should not be to cut
    men's sports, but to increase women's offerings.
               Additionally, this is a crisis that just isn't present in
    Washington. Not one of our six four- year institutions has dropped a men's
    sport in the last two years, although some men's (and women's!) sports have
    been cut over the last decade or so. When school representatives are asked
    the reasons for dropping sports, the ones mentioned repeatedly are lack of
    student (male) interest, budgetary constraints, and lack of competitors.
               At one point the Evergreen State College went from eight
    sports to two because of general budget constraints (they currently offer
    four sports to both men and women). Eastern Washington University dropped
    men's wrestling because other schools had - there simply no longer were
    teams to compete against.
               Only Central Washington University mentioned Title IX when asked
    it dropped men's soccer, but that it was just one factor of several in its
    decision. The University of Washington has added women's sports, such as
    soccer, without limiting men's opportunities and would have no problem
    whatsoever in adding more teams, as demonstrated by the high level of
    participation in women's intramural (club) sports, such as water polo,
    squash, and skiing. According to Marie Tuite, U.W. Senior Associate
    Athletic Director, "If you build them, they will come."
               Our state has one of the highest proportions of women among its
    student athletes -- 45 percent, which has mirrored the participation of
    girls in high school sports. This is due largely to the Blair v.
    State University State Supreme Court case from the 1980s, resulting in
    participation in intercollegiate athletics being targeted to the ratio of
    men and women in the student body. In addition, we have gender equity
    tuition waivers, enacted in 1989, mainly from the efforts of Sen. Ken
    Jacobsen (D-Seattle) and made permanent by the Legislature last year. They
    have helped in adding women's sports and in providing alternatives to
               All in all, we need to level the playing field and continue
    up the athletic fields to more women - not at the expense of men, but out
    of fairness to women. The growth in female participation in sports over
    last two decades shows that, when given the opportunity, women will come,
    compete, sweat, strive, score, and win. And when you see this - whether
    it's on the soccer field at the neighborhood school, or at the World Cup
    final - it's a sign of the success and importance of Title IX.
    Editor's Note: State Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles represents the people of the
    36th District. She is chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee and
    serves on the Senate Education, Human Services & Corrections, and Ways &
    Means committees. She is also a lecturer in the Women Studies Department
    the University of Washington.

    Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles
    36th Legislative District
    Washington State Senate
    (360) 786-7670 (Olympia)
    (206) 281-5493 (district office)
    (206) 285-1869 (home office)

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