Title IX Policies Threatented

by Chris Wing
American Association of University Women-WI
Public Policy Coordinator

The Commission on Opportunity in Athletics, appointed by the U.S. Department of Education to examine Title IX as it applies to athletic programs, has issued its final report, which includes recommendations for significant changes to Title IX policies. Two commissioners, Donna de Varona and Julie Foudy, submitted a strongly worded Minority Report that U.S. Dept. of Education Secretary Paige refuses to accept.

The Minority Report takes issue with the entire tone and thrust of the Commission’s process, which defined the problem to be addressed as alleged losses to men’s teams rather than continuing discrimination against women. If Title IX regulations are weakened, women and girls could lose hundreds of thousands of participation opportunities and millions of dollars in athletic scholarships.

The Minority Report specifically objects to two particularly harmful recommendations that the Secretary persists in calling unanimous. One allows the Secretary to set a “reasonable variance” from the current Title IX standards for equality. Because this language is open-ended, it is impossible to put a limit on the losses the Secretary could impose on programs for women and girls if he adopts this recommendation. Another allows the Secretary to determine “additional ways of demonstrating equity,” but does not provide any guidelines. This recommendation is particularly troublesome, as the Secretary could interpret this as permission to make any changes to Title IX implementation that he chooses. Despite the fact that Title IX’s purpose is far from accomplished, these recommendations would allow schools to be found in compliance while falling far short of equal opportunity.

On March 11, Representatives Louise Slaughter (D-NY) and Nancy Johnson (R-CT) introduced the bipartisan House Resolution (House Resolution 137) that supports the current Title IX enforcement mechanisms and urges President Bush to not make any changes to Title IX. The resolution highlights the problematic recommendations included in the Commission’s final report and states that Congress will take legislative action if changes are made to Title IX.

The American Association of University Women (AAUW) is currently leading coalition efforts on behalf of Title IX. “AAUW believes that no changes to the standards as applied to athletics are warranted or necessary… What is necessary to ensure equal opportunity is vigorous federal enforcement of Title IX and its implementing policies at every level of education, not revisions to the standards that have moved our nation toward that equality. The responsibility of the federal government is to ensure equal opportunity, not to ensure that particular sports teams are added, discontinued, or maintained. A ‘pull-back’ on the nation’s commitment to civil rights should not be precipitated by institutional financial decisions to emphasize selected sports programs or in any other way determine the appropriate size and expense of athletics programs.” (From http://www.aauw.org)

Take Action: Contact Senators Kohl and Feingold and your Congressional Representative, asking them to support House Resolution 137. Contact President Bush and Secretary Paige and let them know that you oppose the proposed changes to Title IX policies. You may send email messages directly from the aauw.org website. Click on “Protect Title IX” under Action Advisor.

AAUW promotes education and equity for all women and girls, lifelong education, and positive societal change. Visit AAUW-WI at www.aauw-wi.org. To read the full text of H. Res. 137 go to http://thomas.loc.gov.

This article first appeared in the June 2003 issue of the Wisconsin Women’s Network’s newsletter The Stateswoman