September 4, 2002

Title IX Under Scrutiny

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Last Tuesday, while some in Atlanta worried about whether the Braves would lose their season, others found themselves fighting for the basic survival of their entire sporting existence. On August 27th, the Committee on Opportunity in Athletics began a sixth month undertaking to review Title IX — the monumental legislation mandating greater equity in all federally funded educational institutions.

Secretary of Education Roderick Paige announced the formation of the exploratory committee on June 27, 2002. The panel will consider testimony from parents, athletes, coaches and officials in order to prepare a recommendation in regards to the 30-year-old law. Former WNBA star Cynthia Cooper, and Stanford athletic director Ted Leland will co-chair the 15 person committee.

“I am confident that, with the help of this Commission, we will learn how we can do a better job of enforcing a law that represents hope to so many Americans,” Paige said in a press release.

While the Department of Education believes the committee findings will strengthen Title IX, others are not as confident. Marcia D. Greenberger was one of the first to testify in front of the commission. President of the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), Greenberger has been a vocal opponent of the panel since it’s inception.

“If the [Bush] Administration wants to improve Title IX, it should strengthen enforcement of the law and policies already on the books,” Greenberger stated at a press conference last June. Prior to the panel’s announcement, the NWLC reported a $6.5 million gap in athletic scholarships between women and men.

The NWLC has expressed prior reservations regarding President Bush’s stance on the topic. Greenberger’s organization is primarily concerned that Bush might be in favor of overturning Title IX. The announcement of the panel did not help, as the NWLC and similar groups have called it “unwarranted.” Such suspicions have grown since the Department of Justice’s actions in late May.

Filed by the National Wrestling Association, a recent lawsuit claimed that Title IX hurts low profile male sports. Though the case was dismissed by the Department of Justice, it was done so on procedural grounds. Title IX advocates such as Greenberger claim that figures from the NCAA prove male and female athletic opportunities have grown since the enactment of Title IX. In their minds, such actions are just the first step to repealing the Federal Title. Assistant Secretary of Education Brian Jones answered back at a Senate Hearing.

“This is incorrect,” Stated Jones. He went on to comment, “It simply was not the time in that motion for us to address the merits…if some of the case survives, then, we are certainly eager to get into the merits, and we will defend the Department’s position.”

Although the Committee on Opportunity in Athletics has taken flak from women’s rights activists, it is generally well received within Congress. Members of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee praised the idea of an exploratory panel when they met in June. Among those hailing the committee’s potential were Senators Wellstone, Murray and Clinton.

“We are at a turning point,” said Clinton. “The announcement of a blue ribbon panel I think holds great promise, but we will have to consider it very carefully…we do not want to do anything that turns the clock back on women and girls.”

Archived article by Matt Janiga