Nat'l student protests call Title IX cuts into question

by Molly Holden | 11/14/06 6:00am

Dozens of James Madison University students recently protested Title IX regulations outside the Department of Education in Washington, D.C., after the university said these laws caused it to eliminate seven men's sports teams and three women's teams.

Some, however, question the validity of this explanation.

"[The cuts don't] have so much to do with money being poured into women's programs -- it has to do with the amount of money being spent on football and bigger programs," Dartmouth Director of Athletics Josie Harper said.

Title IX, which was implemented in 1972, states, "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."

Dartmouth has never been forced to make cuts in its athletic programs, according to Harper.

The College attempted to cut the men's and women's swimming and diving teams in 2002, but said it needed to do so because of overall budget reductions, not the impacts of Title IX.

Many universities with larger athletic programs, unlike Dartmouth, tend to focus on one or two prime revenue sports like football, which leads universities to channel funds to those teams, Harper said.

"The Ivy League offers more programs than the majority of other Division I programs in the country and runs the smallest budgets. We just don't put the big money into it that other colleges do," Harper said.

Originally created to expand women's opportunities in a variety of areas, Title IX has led to an increased emphasis on collegiate women's athletics.

Institutions must satisfy a three-prong test in order to comply with Title IX. Athletic departments must ensure that there is an equal proportion of men's to women's sports teams as there are men to women on campus, demonstrate continued efforts to expand athletics opportunities for both sexes and show that they are satisfying the student body's need for men and women's athletics.

Not all universities adhere to these stipulations, and, according to Harper, schools can use misleading survey results to demonstrate unrepresentative satisfaction rates.

"I think the new idea now among colleges is the campus survey, which is just a way to get around it," Harper said. "If someone sends you a survey asking you about Title IX would you seriously sit down and fill it out? Most college students won't, and [college administrators] take a non-answer as a 'yes, everything's fine.' That's an interesting way to get around interest levels."

While Harper believes that Title IX has ultimately provided more athletic opportunities for women, she feels that colleges are using it as an excuse to hide behind.

"They've done a really good job of telling the non-revenue, less visible men's sports, 'You're losing your sports because of Title IX.' Just ask for a budget," Harper said. "What you spend on your women's sports and what you spend on your men's sports has nothing to do with the women's sports, believe me. It's too obvious to take away from the women's teams, so what they do is they take away from the men's teams and then point to the men's teams and say we had to take away from you to support the women. I don't see how [anyone] could ever justify giving [one person] an opportunity while taking away from [another] person."

Some Dartmouth students said they supported Title IX's underlying goal, but did not always agree with the process.

"If a men's team was preventing the addition of a women's team at the school, that is one thing, but to simply take away a men's team for the sake of making numbers even doesn't really seem like it accomplishes the goal of Title IX as I see it, which is to help women get the varsity sports teams they want," men's swimming and diving team member Shane Foster '07 said.

Others, however, said they did not think Title IX negatively impacted men's teams.

"I can't see how it [Title IX] would 'harm' male teams in any way. I am definitely an athletically-minded person in that I support all teams and love to watch from the stands. In my opinion, having equal male to women's teams only results in more sports, more sporting events and more school spirit and support for athletes," volleyball player Nadine Parris '06 said.