Equity law under scrutiny

U-WIRE) BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Title IX experts said recommendations made Thursday by President Bush’s advisory commission could significantly weaken the federal law that determines gender equity in schools.
The Commission on Opportunity in Athletics’ 15 members recommended only mild changes to Title IX, the education act that prohibits gender discrimination in federally-funded public and private schools, after mulling over earlier this week two dozen proposals.
The panel voted 7-7 on a proposal allowing schools to have 50 percent male and 50 percent female athletes, regardless of student body makeup, to comply with Title IX. A proposal to eliminate Title IX’s “proportionality” requirement failed 11-4.
The commission, which met in Washington and only looked at sports, will send a report to U.S. Education Secretary Rod Paige, who will consider changes. Only Congress can fundamentally change the law, but Paige can alter the way schools have to comply to it.
In a major decision, the panel struck down 11-4 a proposal to eliminate Title IX’s “first prong,” which requires universities to closely mirror the ratio of male and female athletics to the ratio of male and female students.
The panel also recommended not counting the number of overall athletes for compliance, but establishing a predetermined number of roster spots on each team. The panel also recommended to not count walk-on athletes and nontraditional athletes.
In addition, the commission voted 8-7 against proposing surveys to determine the interest in men’s and women’s sports for determining proportionality of genders.
IU kinesiology professor Phillip Henson, a former Olympic track and field director, said he would like to see interest in individual sports taken into account when determining the number of male and female athletes.
He added that non-revenue, men’s sports teams have been cut unfairly as schools try to comply with Title IX.
As for a solution to reaching proportionality, Henson said football players shouldn’t be counted because no women’s sport recruits as many players, tipping schools toward inequality.
Title IX requires federally funded schools to meet one of three “prongs” — the school’s male-female athlete ratio to be “substantially proportionate” to its male-female student ratio, to show continuing increase in opportunities for women, or to show that it is “fully and effectively” accommodating women’s interests and abilities.
Since Title IX’s inception, the number of women participating in college sports has increased fivefold from 1971 to 2002. But about 400 men’s college teams were eliminated during the 1990s.