“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or subject to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving federal financial assistance,” reads Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.
In the last three decades, critics of Title IX have argued that women aren’t as interested in sports as their males, and that more funding should go to male sports to further these interests.
Over the years that argument fell on deaf ears, until last month. On March 17, the Department of Education announced new guidelines for collegiate compliance with the Title IX amendment.
Under the new clarification, schools can still receive federal funds even if the representation of females to males is unequal in athletics. A university is only required to send out a new office for Civil Rights e-mail survey to assess the interest in athletics among the student body.
“Such surveys fail to provide a valid measure of women’s interest in sports and, instead, institutionalize the very discrimination that is and has been the basis for women’s lack of opportunity to participate in sports,” said Dominique Dawes, president-elect of the Women’s Sports Foundation, in a press release from the foundation.
The emphasis on e-mail surveys is troubling. When is the last time you really read an e-mail from Temple? When is the last time you responded to a survey?
These days, students’ inboxes are crowded with spam, forwarded messages, and Facebook announcements. Many of us ignore the Temple Today e-mails and wouldn’t know about a program unless it was announced on a huge poster in the Student Center and flyers covering the kiosks all over campus.
What happens if females, not to mention female student-athletes, don’t respond to this e-mail survey? Many are constantly busy with schoolwork, practice, games … the list continues.
Due to a lack of response, funding for female athletics could actually be cut with the assumption that girls are not interested in athletics and therefore money to fund them isn’t needed.
Not only must girls teams compete 10 times as hard to draw a crowd, now they have to prove their interest in athletics.
“Male athletes have never had to prove they were interested in sports to receive opportunities to play,” said Donna Lopiano, CEO of the Women’s Sports Foundation, in the same press release. “Schools simply assumed male athletes were interested in sports, hired a coach who recruited athletes to play and offered varsity athletic experiences … If you do the same for women, they too will play.”
Title IX is being redefined at a time when college athletics funding, among other things, is still far from equal.
According to Marcia D. Greenberger, co-president of the National Women’s Law Center, funding for women’s sports averages just 36 percent of athletic operating budgets, and recruiting budgets for women’s teams are even worse, with women getting just 32 percent of total recruiting expenditures.
Now, schools will not be obligated to consult with women’s coaches or look at high school athletic participation, measures that are currently required. Instead, a school’s obligation to equality in athletics is complete when it sends out a mass e-mail to the student body.
According to the foundation, the Department of Education didn’t consult the public, current female athletes or women’s athletic coaches, individuals whom these guidelines would affect, before making their decision. Were they worried the new guidelines wouldn’t fly?
Just because some fans may not be interested in watching, or some schools aren’t interested in addressing women’s athletics doesn’t mean women aren’t just as interested in playing. It is not the Department of Education’s job to assume that girls aren’t interested in athletics; women shouldn’t have to prove they are.
Championships won, games played, tears shed, and coaches honored over the past 30 years should be proof enough.
Danielle K. Milner can be reached at email@example.com.