June 24 2014

Title IX: Christina Hoff Sommers on How a Good Law Went Bad...

Charlotte Hays

Yesterday was the forty-second anniversary of the passage of Title IX, an important piece of legislation with the laudable goal of equality.

Unfortunately, despite the good intentions, Title IX has had a devastating effect on men’s sports.  Christina Hoff Sommers takes note of Title IX at 42 in the current edition of Time magazine:

A weary wrestling coach once lamented that his sport had survived the Fall of Rome, only to be vanquished by Title IX. How did an honorable equity law turn into a scorched-earth campaign against men’s sports?

Hoff Sommers acknowledges the worthy intent of the law:

Title IX was signed into law by President Nixon on June 23, 1972. In 37 momentous words, it outlawed gender discrimination in all publicly supported educational programs. Before its passage, many leading universities did not accept women and law schools and medical schools often used quotas to limit female enrollment. As for sports, female student athletes were rare — and received precious little support from college athletic programs.

The logic behind Title IX is the same as that behind all great civil rights legislation: In our democracy, the government may not play favorites among races or religions or between the sexes. We are all equal before the law — including students in colleges and universities receiving public funds.

Title IX deserves some (but not all) of the credit for the flourishing of women’s sports in the last four decades. But the law has been transformed into a quota-driven system and the results have been destructive. Hoff Sommers writes:

Women’s groups strongly object to the “q” word. “Title IX does not in any way require quotas,” says the National Women’s Law Center. “It simply requires that schools allocate participation opportunities non-discriminatorily.” That can mean many things, but in the hands of bureaucrats and advocates, this diffuse requirement somehow came to mean that women are entitled to “statistical proportionality.” That is to say, if a college’s student body is 60% female, then 60% of the athletes should be female — even if far fewer women than men are interested in playing sports at that college.

Title IX defenders will tell you that there are several ways that schools can satisfy the non-discrimination standard other than proportional representation. That is true on paper but false in practice. The regulations are murky and ever-changing, leaving most schools to scramble to the only safe harbor: Proportionality.

Because schools can face horrendously legal battles over Title IX, they have been intent on achieving proportionality, even if it means cutting back on male sports or adding sports associated with women, even if there is little or no demand on campus for such sports. The number of wrestling teams for young men, for example, has declined by more than 450 since Title IX was passed.

Here is how the quest for proportionality worked at one university:

Look what happened at Howard University in Washington, D.C.: The school’s student body is 67% female, but women constitute only 43% of its athletic program. In 2007, the Women’s Sports Foundation, a powerful Title IX advocacy group, gave Howard an “F” grade because of its 24% “proportionality gap.” Howard had already cut men’s wrestling and baseball and added women’s bowling, but that did little to narrow the gap. Unless it cuts almost half of its current male athletes, Howard will remain under a Title IX cloud and legally vulnerable. The school’s former wrestling coach, Wade Hughes, summed up the problem this way: “The impact of Title IX’s proportionality standard has been disastrous because … far more males than females are seeking to take part in athletics.”

But the system doesn’t have to work against male sports:

Instead of more investigations, restrictions, closed opportunities, bean counting, number fudging and gender politics, we should follow the advice of the novelist (and former wrestler) John Irving: “Keep Title IX: eliminate proportionality.” I know of can think of no better way to celebrate this intrinsically good law on its 42nd anniversary.

I urge you to read the entire article.

 

 

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