Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Debate Begins on How Schools Comply with Title IX

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Debate Begins on How Schools Comply with Title IX

Article excerpt

The civil rights law is simple enough: Colleges receiving federal dollars cannot practice sex discrimination. In sports, that was supposed to mean giving women more athletic opportunities.

But critics of the way government has enforced the law told a House subcommittee Tuesday that schools often have been forced to cut non-money producing men's programs such as wrestling and gymnastics rather than add women's teams.

"This is the only civil rights law I know of where innocent bystanders are punished," Rep. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., said at a hearing of a House Economic and Education Opportunities subcommittee.

The former high school wrestling coach is leading the fight to change how the Education Department's Office of Civil Rights enforces the gender-equity rules.

Schools can comply with Title IX by meeting one of three tests: They can insure that athletic opportunities for men and women are "substantially proportionate" to enrollment by gender; they can show a history and continuing practice of growth of their women's sports programs, or they can offer a sports program that "fully and effectively" satisfies the interests and abilities of female students.

But Brown University president Vartan Gregorian said that proportionality had become the overriding test, that Brown had been punished for making "massive" improvements in women's athletics all at once and that every study Brown had done to define its student body's interests and abilities had been rejected by the court.

A federal judge ruled in March that Brown University had discriminated against female athletes by eliminating two women's teams in 1991. The university has appealed.

"The intent is so unclear that anybody can interpret it any way that they want," Gregorian said. "I cannot tell these women, `You better participate in athletics otherwise you cause problems.' It's a catch 22. …

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