Title IX abuse in university athletic programs

If asked, most feminists will tell you that feminist activism is not an attack on masculinity or the human rights of men and boys. Many of them will quote from Jezebel.com writing full of claims about all of the harm feminists don’t want to do to men (in the midst of a post admitting that man-hating is “a thing,”) and blaming any discrimination men face on the phantom concept of “patriarchy.”

Many examples can be found to show that the article and its claims are false. The twisting of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 is one that speaks loud and clear, and women’s advocates defend its discriminatory use the same way: by passing the buck and shifting blame. When confronted with evidence that it isn’t Title IX’s quota system which ensures female participation, women’s advocates respond with excuses, rhetoric, and unsupported complaints about money, and attempt to shout down anyone who disagrees.

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 was passed in order to amend previous acts affecting the public education system to bar educational institutions from discriminating against students or student applicants on the basis of sex.

The amendment was originally proposed as a measure to end discriminatory quotas that limited female college admissions. It stipulates that “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” According to TitleIX.info’s history page, the law covers 10 key areas in education: Access to Higher Education, Career Education, Education for Pregnant and Parenting Students, Employment, Learning Environment, Math and Science, Athletics, Sexual Harassment, Standardized Testing, and Technology.

So how did it end up being used as it is today?

For that, we have to look to policy set up by the Department of Education, not the law itself.

Section 431(d)(1) of the General Education Provisions Act allows Education Department policies to become regulations by a kind of default process. Policy is transmitted to Congress 60 days after its creation. If Congress does not disapprove within 45 days after that, it becomes regulation. By this process, the department has slowly twisted the law’s original application from a means to ensure equal access to education into an attack on athletic programs and from a position against discriminatory limitations to a position enforcing them.

In 1979, the department issued an interpretation of Title IX that measured compliance in educational institutions using a three-part test. Schools could demonstrate compliance by any one of the three means.

(1) The number of male and female athletes is substantially proportionate to their respective enrolments; or

(2) The institution has a history and continuing practice of expanding participation opportunities responsive to the developing interests and abilities of the underrepresented sex; or

(3) The institution is fully and effectively accommodating the interests and abilities of the underrepresented sex.

The second and third tests are problematic for obvious reasons. A history of expansion is easy to show, but continuing practice is necessarily limited. An institution attempting to expand participation opportunities will eventually run out of sports to add or funding to spend on new programs. Further, the institution’s attempts to expand will be limited by the interests of the group itself.

Accommodating the interests and abilities of the underrepresented sex sounds good, but how does one quantify those factors? Women’s groups disapproved of a 2005 attempt. To date, no functional method for this has been deemed universally acceptable, and administrators are left to consider attempts to use this standard as a measure of compliance a gamble at best.

Administrators for educational institutions have found the first test easiest to meet, by eliminating women’s status as “underrepresented.” The policy is written with the presumption that an unequal outcome is always due to inequality of opportunity, and educational institutions have been consistently targeted on that basis. Because of this, the policy has become a strict quota system. If 57% of a university’s students are male and 43% are female, then 57% of that university’s athletes can be male but 43% must be female. If fewer female students take an interest in sports so that only 30% of the university’s athletes are female, Education Department policy requires the university to take measures as described in the three-prong test to correct the imbalance.

This leaves administrators with a hard choice. The expectation is that when faced with scrutiny of their athletic program by the state, complaints, or legal action by women’s groups, they will recruit more female students to participate in sports and fund more female athletic programs than female students take interest in on their own. However, the practical application of the policy has not necessarily resulted in such expansion of opportunities for female athletes but instead in universities limiting male participation and even eliminating male athletic teams to meet the goal of having their participation percentages match their population percentages. That has become the standard method among post-secondary educational institutions. Male athletic teams are being subjected to participation caps or eliminated altogether to ensure that schools aren’t penalized for failing to comply with Title IX.

Feminists have claimed that complaints about this are unwarranted and that universities are maintaining large football programs, which do not garner female interest and have no approved female counterpart, instead of promoting women’s teams. However, at many schools, football programs keep alumni engaged in the continuing activities of the institution and attract both students and donors. Rather than robbing women’s programs of needed funding, they break even or even bring in a profit. This helps to provide the funds needed to finance other athletic team programs, including women’s programs, yet men’s program cuts still occur in these schools. The cutting trend also occurs in the absence of a football team. While some women’s advocates blame football, others have attempted to stack the deck by defining the term athletic to exclude athletic activity in which more women than men take an interest, further skewing the statistics on which the quota system is measured. All things considered, blaming football is a red herring at best and at worst another feminist attack on male interests.

Despite evidence contradicting their reasoning, women’s advocacy in regard to Title IX continues to support the quota system, keeping universities in the position of making the decision to cut when they cannot otherwise comply. As a result, men’s teams continue to be targeted. Positions on various teams including wrestling, gymnastics, and track and field are being eliminated by school administrations to avoid being denied funding because they cannot increase female athletic engagement enough to equal male interest in competitive sports. Now, building on the momentum of previous efforts, proponents of the quota system are working to expand its application into high school sports.

Feminists use the claim that interscholastic athletics used to be a boys club that excluded women as an excuse for defending quotas, yet prevailing trends demonstrate that quotas aren’t helping to open opportunities for women. They’re instead being used to eliminate opportunities for men. This is not providing a benefit to anyone. It isn’t increasing opportunities for athletic participation among female students. It is reducing opportunities for male students when female interest is not as high. It is accepted not because it is helping but because with the genders reversed the public does not recognize it for what it is: exactly the type of discriminatory policy that the law was originally written to eliminate.

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