Learning to play fair
Some stipulations of the Title IX amendment have resulted in the denial of opportunity for menís sports teams
In the forty years or so since the first woman was admitted into this University, there have been many advancements which have led to an atmosphere many might argue is closer to full gender equality. This is not to say that we have everything figured out about gender equivalence or gender relations, which perhaps could use some examination. For the time being, though, "equivalent" seems to be the best way to describe the status of opportunities for men and women at the University.
I would like to take the time to point out that while equality is absolutely admirable and ought to be the standard to which we hold ourselves, we must be careful of manufacturing equality in a way which is prohibitive to either gender. This would defeat the purpose of seeking gender equality in the first place. One such example of manufactured equality is Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 as it pertains to athletics. I just want to clarify that the only thing about Title IX that I find objectionable is how it has come to be interpreted and upheld in today's world of college athletics.
Despite its imperfections, Title IX is by and large a necessary bit of legislation. In terms of athletics, the law helps secure equal treatment for women and access to resources of the same quality, such as provision of facilities, medical treatment and equipment. This is completely necessary and fair because, in all likelihood, if the determination of women's programs were left to market factors there would be a stark under-provision of women's athletics. This is not a biased conjecture but rather a simple commentary on the culture of athletics in our country; there is a greater demand for men's athletics. Without Title IX there would likely be a disproportionately low number of women's programs simply because the funding would not be provided and the interest in and demand for women's athletics would go unsatisfied. Title IX, in fulfilling its mission statement to see that "no person ... shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in ... an activity receiving Federal financial assistance" quite successfully provides for the existence of many women's programs.
Since the introduction of the Education Amendments of 1972, many efforts have been made to ensure programs and practices are instituted and encouraged which adhere to Title IX. One such effort was the Commission on Opportunity in Athletics, which in 2002 evaluated the level of gender equality in college athletics. The finding of the commission upheld one particularly important decision: that the number of scholarships offered to men and women must be equal. The most immediate consequence was reaffirming the increase in funding for women's athletics.
There is a more serious consequence of the stipulation, however. It has come to severely curtail the opportunities for male athletics, specifically less revenue-heavy sports which still garner a great deal of interest from students but cannot offer scholarships because of the requirements of Title IX. This is not to say that some women's teams are not also worthy of becoming varsity sports. But a few men's programs in particular are left hanging by this legislation. Specific to the University are the men's rugby and squash teams. In each case, Title IX could go a long way toward explaining why they have yet to reach varsity level.
I do not mean to suggest that Title IX ought to be done away with, but rather that some amendment is necessary. A fair measure of cumulative gender-specific interest in the field of athletics could be observed by adolescent participation. In our country today, more adolescent boys than girls participate in athletics. By this measure it seems that Title IX is severely curtailing the amount of attention devoted to men's athletics. There is not a need for scholarship provision to exactly reflect the gender breakdown in adolescent athletics, but rather there should be some leeway so that whole teams are not shut out of the opportunity to become varsity sports.
While participation is perhaps a shallow measure of interest, it is non-negligible and an undeniable indication of a gender inequality. With this in mind, I think it is hard to argue against the need to reevaluate how we define and implement equality, especially given the strides that have been made to achieve it by our predecessors.
Blake Blaze is a Viewpoint writer for The Cavalier Daily.