Title IX

President Bush recently decided to ignore the recommendations of a blue ribbon commission that advocated altering the interpretation of Title IX. While feminists breathed a collective sight of relief, the vast majority of the country was oblivious to the meaning of Title IX and how it affected our society.

Title IX was passed in 1972 and was modeled after Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. In vague and seemingly innocuous language it stated,

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.

In the thirty years since the law's passage, numerous of negative consequences have resulted, many of which have been documented in Jessica Gavora's Tilting the Playing Field: Schools, Sports, Sex and Title IX. Written in brisk and affable fashion, this book is also quite thorough in detailing the abuses of Title IX.

The most notorious, though hardly the only, consequence of Title IX is its effect on male sporting teams. Following the Cohen vs. Brown decision in 1995, Title IX has been interpreted to guarantee that schools have the same proportion of male athletes to female athletes as there is in the rest of the student body. To meet the quotas, many schools are forced to cut men's programs and add new women's programs. Across the country, men's sports programs are cut and scholarships revoked just to comply with federal bureaucrats. According to the Independent Women's Forum, between 1992, and 1999 43 wrestling teams, 53 golf programs, 16 baseball teams, 23 swimming programs, and 39 tennis squadrons were cut to accommodate Title IX regulations. During the same time period, only one Division 1-A women's sports program was cut.

While men's teams and scholarships are disappearing, athletic directors are on a painful search to find women to join varsity teams. The rise of female crew teams provides a striking example. While men's programs across the country were cut, the number of female crew teams more than doubled between 1995 and 1999. This was not a result of increased interest in women's rowing. During the same time period, female high school crew programs dwindled. In order to reach their quotas, colleges across the nation have given full scholarships to female walk-on's who never rowed in their life. Many athletic directors and coaches have resorted to walk up to any tall and athletic looking girl and offer her a scholarship if she joins the varsity crew team.

Despite accommodations made across the country, females make up 56% of undergraduates across the country, while still only 41% of college athletes. This 15% gap translates to 59,000 male athletes who would be cut if quotas were more rigorously enforced. The result would be that every football program in the country would be eliminated; or alternatively every men's golf, track, gymnastics, swim, water polo, and basketball team would have to be dropped.

When faced with these facts, feminists often claim that fault lies with football not Title IX. They claim that men's football teams, often with over a hundred players and coaches with six or seven digit salaries, are to blame for the cut in other male athletic programs. Gavora demolishes this claim. She points out that the majority of Division I-A football teams earn revenue for other sports, while with the exclusion of the Connecticut basketball team, no female program turns a profit. The average NCAA women's basketball team spends more than 10,000 dollars more per player than football teams.

Title IX's wrath is not confined to athletics. By the logic of the Brown decision, quotas now applied to sports teams could be applied to academic departments like drama, dance, engineering, and mathematics where the number of males and females are disproportionate. While not happening yet, the National Women's Law Center has filed a complaint against the New York City school board on these grounds. They claim that New York's vocational schools are "segregated" because the schools that offer training for engineering classes are heavily male, while ones that focused on nursing and cosmetology have more females.

Furthermore, federal courts and the Clinton Office of Civil Rights have used Title IX to modify standardized tests. An anti-standardized test group called Fair Test successfully sued ETS and made them add a writing section and double the weight of the verbal section of the PSATs. The ruling was justified by the "disparate impact" theory of civil rights, which states that if a test or qualification that benefits one particular group over another is discrimination. Because girls made up 55% of the students who took the test and only 40% of the National Merit Scholars, a distinction based on PSAT scores, the test was deemed gender biased and ETS was forced to change its content.

Title IX also extends into the social sphere of schools. Gavora demonstrates how many of the witch-hunts over alleged sexual harassers and date rapists at college campuses can be traced to Title IX. While the perpetrators of these crimes were traditionally individuals, campuses that create a "hostile environment" can now be sued for sex discrimination. This has led to administrators going as far as suspending a six-year-old boy for kissing another student on the cheek.

While Gavora is excellent at identifying the symptoms, she comes up short with the cause and the cure. Gavora would be fairly characterized as a moderate feminist. While deploring radical feminists, she praises Berry Friedman's The Feminine Mystique and generally sees the changing sex roles of women since the 1950s as a positive development. Therefore, she considers Title IX and other anti-discrimination measures to guarantee women equal footing with men as necessary. Gavora views the outrages that are thoroughly detailed in her book as unintended consequences of Title IX. Acknowledging neoconservatives like Shelby Steele who suggest that conservatives fight for the original meaning of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, she suggests that conservatives fight to restore the "original intent" of Title IX and claim "moral authority" over the radical feminists. While the excesses of the law may be unintended, they are certainly inevitable.

Gavora is right to notice the similarities between the two laws both in their language, and that both explicitly prohibited the use of quotas. She also mentions that no less than a year after its passage, the Civil Rights Act was interpreted to require quotas. It would not take a clairvoyant to foresee that similar outcomes would inevitably result from Title IX, but she fails to come to terms with this inescapability.

The story of how quotas were implemented is a familiar one. Due to the law's vague language, school administrators had a difficult time figuring out if they were complying with the law. Consequently, an ideologically motivated bureaucracy and court system was created to enforce it as they saw fit. If anything, it is surprising that it took nearly 25 years for explicit quotas to be required.

Despite these flaws, Tilting the Playing Field is an excellent analysis of the problems created by Title IX. Hopefully in time, Mrs. Gavora will realize that the therapeutic bureaucracies created by Title IX and other similar laws cannot be tamed and need to be put to sleep.

September 8, 2003