Friday, April 30, 2010

Closing the Title IX Loophole

Last week, the Obama administration announced that the Department of Education will close an enforcement loophole to the law known as Title IX. The 2005 loophole allowed schools to use surveys to gague female students' interest in sports, and interpreted a lack of response as a lack of interest.

Passed in 1972, Title IX forbids any schools that receive federal funding from discriminating against anyone based on gender. Title IX is best known for its impact on collegiate athletics, basically mandating that women have the same access to varsity athletics that men do, based on enrollment. To comply, many schools reappropriated funding from their plethora of men's teams to offer more opportunities for women.

Some men don't like this. It means that they don't have as many opportunities as they had before. They don't have the vast majority of funding anymore (assuming Title IX is even enforced at their school). Maybe, like a classmate of mine at ASU once lamented, they cut the men's gymnastics team to create a women's rowing program. He had to look that much harder to find a funded, men's gymnastics program. He had to compete for fewer spots on fewer teams. He even had to be truly exceptional to participate, or receive a scholarship. I guess now he knows how millions of women, myself included, felt when they were looking for college athletic programs.

Women's athletic opportunities is an issue near and dear to our hearts. KB, Liz and Smalls became fast friends while competing in high school club rowing in Arizona, and all three participated in Division I athletics in college. None of this would have been possible without Title IX.

I'd also like to point out that, although we have legal protection from discrimination in schools, Title IX enforcement is an entirely different issue. The 2005 loophole patently allowed non-compliance, essentially blaming women for their own lack of opportunity and funding. My favorite Title IX enforcement story is that of the Yale women's rowing team, whose members had to wait in a freezing bus after practice while the men's crew showered and dressed in off-campus locker rooms. Title IX had been passed four years earlier. The crew, led by future olympian Cris Ernst and accompanied by a New York Times reporter, stormed the athletic director's office and stripped. They had written Title IX on their bare chests and backs.

You can learn more about that incident in the documentary A Hero For Daisy.

That story makes me want to do 50 push-ups.

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