Sunday, April 24, 2005
Title IX, the 1972 federal law mandating equal opportunity for females in high school and college sports, has helped spur huge changes. But its supporters have trouble believing their eyes. Despite the enormous gains for female athletes, they act as though the gains could be erased overnight.

They are currently outraged by a new Bush administration guideline that offers colleges a new way to show they are not discriminating--by asking all women students if they are interested in participating in athletics. If the number who say yes isn't enough to justify adding teams, a school would not have to do so.

The reaction was swift and harsh. Donna Lopiano, head of the Women's Sports Foundation, called it "incredibly bad policy that will disenfranchise generations of female athletes." The National Women's Law Center said the change "threatens to reverse the enormous progress women and girls have made in sports since the enactment of Title IX."
What about all the men who actually want to participate in sports who have had their programs cut in order to meet the Title IX equality requirements when the schools were unable to pay women to participate? That is right, schools have tried to bribe women into participating in sports and they still can't find any willing participants. Most often schools use rowing programs for women as it is a relatively inexpensive sport. See here, here, here, here, and here.

Essentially many of the Title IX proponents want to force women to play sports or force schools to cut men's programs if they can't find women willing to participate. It is simply a bad policy. The premise seems to be that all women want to play sports, they just don't feel they have the opportunities. Well Bush's new proposal will test that premise, and it is clear that those who make their livings off of Title IX graft are worried that this proposal will demonstrate what most know to be true. Despite the fact that 56% of college students are female, more male college students want to participate in sports than female college students.

Hopefully this proposal becomes the law. Gender discrimination is a two way street, and while it used to be females being discriminated against, the pendulum has swung and it is now male student-athletes who are being discriminated against.

In high school, girls outnumber boys in nearly every extracurricular activity except sports. One type of interest may preclude another. There has been a vast increase in athletic participation by females since 1972, but it has yet to match that of males, even in arenas where discrimination can't explain the gap.

College intramural sports, which are open to all, attract far more males than females. At the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, for example, the ratio is 3-1. At the University of California at Los Angeles, 69 percent of the intramural players are men. Women attending all-female schools are less likely to participate in intercollegiate athletics than men at comparable coeducational schools.

To get women and men to take part in anything close to equal numbers in varsity sports, schools have to do things like create scholarships and do extensive recruiting to fill female crew teams, even though it's hardly a sport in great demand. At the same time, many limit rosters in men's baseball and other sports, even for non-scholarship "walk-on" players.

Feminist groups complain that though women are a majority of college students, they account for only 41 percent of varsity athletes, as though disparity proves discrimination. In fact, it may show only that colleges know better than outside critics what female students want.

After all, these institutions can ill afford to alienate a group that makes up their chief clientele: Nationally, 56 percent of all undergraduates are female. Title IX aside, colleges are under intense competitive pressure to cater to their interests--athletic, artistic and academic. A school that shortchanges women in any way is a school that is inviting its own demise.

Feminists act as though we live in a world in which institutions of higher education are itching to relegate women to second-class status. But thanks in part to Title IX, that world is gone, and it's not coming back.
Well said.

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I am an attorney in Chicago. Politically speaking, I am an indepedent that tends to lean conservative on fiscal issues and progressive on social issues. I try to remain as unbiased and open-minded as possible. Please email or post any comments, and especially criticisms. If something I say is wrong, or you disagree - let me know about it!

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