Sunday, October 08, 2006

The Road to Hell . . .

The New York Times today has a story revealing another example of Title IX gone awry. The failure, which I have confronted before, is based on a fallacy: That women want to play sports as much as men want to play sports and thus there must be representative numbers of women's athletes proportionate to the student body as a whole lest a university be out of compliance. This is a standard that simply does not exist for any other extracurricular activity outside of sports, no matter the letter of Title IX. By no measure do women pursue sports at the same volume or intensity as men on the aggregate. There is nothing wrong in acknowledging as much, nor does this imply that those women who are passionate about sports are not both as passionate as men and that they ought not to have every opportunity to play sports at the college level, which they can much more easily than ever before.


This time the victims are male athletes at James Madison, and the headline tells the tale: "At James Madison, Title IX Is Satisfied, but the Students Are Not."


I have said it before and I will say it again -- the principles behind Title IX were the right ones, and not so long ago women who wanted to play sports were woefully underrepresented. But no longer. It is insane and unjust to deny men opportunities to play sports out of a misguided sense of equity. Were women being denied opportunities, the issue would be rather different. Instaed, however, what we are seeing is bad results flowing from bad policy with none benefitting. It is time to revisit the letter and spirit of Title IX which was supposed to be about fairness and now simply stands as an anachronistic arbiter of unfairness across the land.

8 comments:

Cynthia said...

So, this is how I'd start our Title IX conversation: what is the purpose of college athletics?

I don't disagree that it's not a perfect law - few are - but I'd argue the societal benefits have outweighed the negatives. But first we'd have to discuss the purpose of college sports, which could take quite a while.

dcat said...

Cynthia --
I'd be more than happy to start the conversation that way (which sounds like a classic delaying technique) as long as in the meantime we stopped putting men's athletics programs in a position to cut men's sports while we dither. And as long as we ask the question "what is the puspose of (anything in college that is not directly tied in to the classroom experience)" because in so framing the question the way you want to, the only people who are suffering are guys in nonrevenue sports.

So yes -- let's discuss. But let's also put off enforcement of Title IX, except for blatant violations of opportunities for women(independent of false ratios based on student bodies) while we have that discussion.

dcat

cynthia said...

sure, except that blatant violations of title ix have occurred (i recall the brown women's rowing program winning a decision in the 80s-90s for one)...

is the problem that women don't 'want' to play sports as much as men, or that colleges and universities don't want to support large varsity athletic programs in an era where they're looking to cut costs? is the 'problem' that the money makers have siphoned off the resources that would otherwise go to a more diverse suite of sports? perhaps the solution is to get more men into colleges (which is about a heck of a lot more than sports). why blame one cause (title ix) instead of recognizing all the factors involved? (or at least recognize that without title ix, women's sports would suffer most in a climate of cuts to non-money-making athletic programs. and women make up the majority of students in college today).

given the huge increase in women's participation in sports since title ix and increases in self confidence and body image by teenage girls who participate in sports, you'd be hard pressed to convince me that sports are 'better' for men than women. recall that not so long ago women were considered too weak to finish a marathon. sports have different impacts by gender, perhaps, but i'm not convinced men 'need' sports more than women. (they may need to watch them more than women. won't argue there).

so i don't think discussing the 'why' of college sports is dithering. i suspect both of us agree that our own 'college experiences' included much more than classroom time (and we were both varsity athletes, albeit at NESCAC colleges).

off to luchtime yoga.

dcat said...

Cynthia --

I'll address as many of your points as possible:

"sure, except that blatant violations of title ix have occurred (i recall the brown women's rowing program winning a decision in the 80s-90s for one)..."

But with whom are you arguing here? Because you are not arguing with anything I've written and in fact I've pretty consistently argued that Title IX when geared at actual discrimination is a good thing. But it is telling that your one vague reference was to the 1980s/1990s Brown crew teams. That was a generation ago and much has changed since then.

"is the problem that women don't 'want' to play sports as much as men, or that colleges and universities don't want to support large varsity athletic programs in an era where they're looking to cut costs?"

Actually, women get to play sports anytime they want in college if they are good enough -- fewer may want to than men, but more get to. But there have been very few cuts of the kind of which I am writing that have been simply to cut costs -- cutting men's but not women's cross country, say, is not merely a budgetary consideration.

"is the 'problem' that the money makers have siphoned off the resources that would otherwise go to
a more diverse suite of sports?"

Possibly, though in a lot of places football and men's basketball subsidizes the rest of the athletics program. but i agree -- and have often thought that if you took football out of the equation equalization would probably happen instantly.

"perhaps the solution is to get more men into colleges (which is about a heck of a lot more than sports)."

Sure. Agreed -- but that is a long term issue. In the meantime, sports are being cut now.

"why blame one cause (title ix) instead of recognizing all the factors involved? (or at least recognize that without title ix, women's sports would suffer most in a climate of cuts to non-money-making athletic programs. and women make up the majority of students in college today)."

I'm not sure you've read enough of my writing on sports to accuse me of submitting monocausal solutions to this problem. But Title IX has a direct cuasal impact on the cutting of men's sports in a number of cases. AD's admit it, schools sanction it. We can pretend that we need to make things more complex than they are but a variation on Occum's Razor holds -- when there is an obvious answer that no one disputes, that's probably the right one. No serious observer of college sports denies that the attempts to equalize have led to cutting men's programs.

"given the huge increase in women's participation in sports since title ix and increases in self confidence and body image by teenage girls who participate in sports, you'd be hard pressed to convince me that sports are 'better' for men than women."

Again -- against whom are you arguing? When did I ever say that sports were better (nice scare quotes) for men than women? What does this have to do with cutting men's sports?

"recall that not so long ago women were considered too weak to finish a marathon."

Yup -- dumb, bad science. Relevance?

"sports have different impacts by gender, perhaps, but I'm not convinced men 'need' sports more than women. (they may need to watch them more than women. won't argue there)."

Yet again -- who argued any such thing? And again -- why the quotation marks -- whom are you quoting when you write "'need'"? Not me. I have not argued against that which you are fearlessly taking a stand. But keep pummelling that straw man! I'm sure he deserves it.

"so i don't think discussing the 'why' of college sports is dithering. i suspect both of us agree that our own 'college experiences' included much more than classroom time (and we were both varsity athletes, albeit at NESCAC colleges)."

Sure, but as I said, that sort of philosophical fiddling should happen after we put a stop to Rome burning. Unless we think that men's cross country (but not women's) is somehow deleterious to a university's academic mission we can hold those conversations but should hold off on cutting teams simply to ramrod athletic programs into a rule that is being carried out in such a way that makes no sense, that is punitive, and that has nothing to do with expanding opportunities for women.

Thanks for your points -- they are thought-provoking even where wrong!

dcat

I hope that lunchtime yoga was productive!

cynthia said...

ok. thus the need for a real live discussion rather than email exchange (i recall saying we should talk title ix last time you posted on it).

you are correct that i've not read everything that you've written on sports, nor do i accuse you of slighting women's sports or sports for women. but, i do feel as if throwing the baby out with the bathwater (suspending title ix rather than amending it) will lead to decreases in opportunities for women to play intercollegiate sports. which situation is more unfair is certainly open to debate.

'No serious observer of college sports denies that the attempts to equalize have led to cutting men's programs. ' sure. didn't mean to imply otherwise, but multiple factors are involved (my ecologist brain doesn't do well with oversimplification).

re: complexity. the article in the nyt you link to has title ix in the headline but the content includes discussion of other factors that may in fact have been more important in jmu's decision.

'but i agree -- and have often thought that if you took football out of the equation equalization would probably happen instantly.' there you go.

my original quesiton stands: what is the purpose of intercollegiate sports in a college/university setting? (and leads to other questions: why not move towards other models? competitive leagues or club teams, or school affiliation with minor-league football/baseball/basketball teams with non-student players, as examples). it's hard to come up with a fair (or least unfair) solution (or have a discussion without talking past one another) without defining what the goals are.

so you are right (since title ix, programs for male athletes in nonlucrative intercollegiate sports have suffered cuts). but so am i (title ix has led to more opportunities for women intercollegiate athletes). will revoking title ix help reach a fair compromise? depends what the goals are.

and yoga always helps, even though it kicks my butt.

dcat said...

Cynthia --
I should try yoga, but two factors keep me from doing so: I've got the flexibiity of a 70 year old and I'm not some damned granola chewing hippie.

Having lived abroad enough to have seen it, I can certainly imagine another option for sports, bacause I've seen it -- namely club sports sponsored by the university. But that's simply not going to happen. Our system is what it is. I tend to believe in the Platonic or Olympian ideal in which body, mind, and spirit are all nourished in a university setting. Or something like that.

I agree -- don't abolish Title IX, but, as Bill Clinton said about something entirely different, we should mend it not end it.

In any case, we should all agree that Amhesrt sucks. Oh, wait. I guess you wouldn't agree with that. You granola chewing hippie.

dcat

cynthia said...

a tofu-eating, granola chewer with an amherst degree who not only loves yoga but plays that silly hippie sport, ultimate frisbee, trying to pretend that she can keep up w/the 22 year olds. at least i gave up wearing socks with my birks when i moved to charlottesville.

i definitely wouldn't make it in texas.

dcat said...

C --
You'd be surprised. Texas has pockets where the likes of you are tolerated. well, the socks with birks thing is intolerable anywhere, but the rest of it would work in a lot more places than you think . . .
dcat