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Spring/Summer 2003

Volume 32
Number 3-4

Title IX:
Taking Equity Seriously




Director's Outlook



From Where I Sit



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From Where I Sit [Printer Friendly]

Reflections on Title IX: A Voice from Division III,
By Jo Young Switzer,
Vice President and Dean for Academic Affairs, Manchester College

 

Too often, media coverage of the debates about Title IX only look at high profile, highly competitive Division I institutions. And they typically do so by paying undue attention to a group upset by a cancellation of a men's team. In doing so, they obscure the quieter revolution that is occurring at NCAA Division III schools where the positive influence of Title IX is palpable. These smaller campuses, like my own institution, Manchester College, tell an important part of the story, too often ignored.

Campuses where gender equity is healthiest are those where athletic directors and coaches authentically support Title IX. The impetus behind the development of Title IX was the expansion of opportunities for students, and it has achieved that dream. On our campus, support for gender equity and the overarching goals of Title IX is firm. The support is not expressed in vague clichés. Instead, coaches have demonstrated it in their actions. Ten years ago, Manchester College added two women's teams, but budget freezes made it extremely difficult to find the start up funds needed for equipment, uniforms, and coaches. In response, coaches from other sports voluntarily reallocated funds to meet this need; and when the football coach realized that the budgets were still $3,000 short, he offered even more. As a result, all of the teams were still able to compete. No one complained.

Only thirty years after Title IX began, five times more women participate in college sports than before, and some will become future coaches. Title IX has already produced many of the women who are now coaches. Each woman coach of a varsity sport on our campus succeeds in part because Title IX opened doors for her through her own college athletic participation. This is true of the majority of women coaches in colleges today. Continued athletic opportunities for women will allow them to be actively involved in collegiate competition, interested in athletic internships, and qualified, in time, for head coaching positions. Everyone benefits when the best people are coaches, and Title IX ensures an excellent training ground for those coaches.

Equity between men's and women's sports also means that coaches will have more mentors. On our campus, men and women coaches discuss game strategies and practice protocols. One coach can help another learn to run a good practice session, regardless of whether it is a men's or a women's sport, or whether it is a male or a female coach. A good practice session is a good practice session. Male coaches mentor female coaches and vice versa.

The success of Title IX shows up in many other ways not captured by the often-quoted proportionality numbers. Title IX itself does not have a quota system, nor does it require exact proportionality of money and numbers of sports. One of the most harmful unintended consequences of Title IX has been the focus only on proportionality because it is the easiest to measure. Title IX has never been about limiting participation: it has been primarily about expanding opportunities.

Title IX allows schools to decide what teams they will offer, both men's and women's. Athletic programs with disproportionate participation numbers can still comply with Title IX as long as other measures of equity--progress and interest--are present. On our campus, like many other campuses, having a football program makes it very hard to have exactly the same numbers of male and female athletes. We do, however, ensure that the funding we allocate for athletics is the same per athlete for all sports--both men's and women's. We ensure that coaching assignments and pay are equitable. We ensure that practice times are assigned so that every player--male or female--has the pleasure of practicing at 5 a.m. when the practice facility is busy from 5 a.m. through 1 a.m. during the winter months. We are also developing ways to get a more accurate understanding of student interest in athletic participation.

The belief that Title IX hurts men's sports oversimplifies a very complex situation. Schools with limited resources cut sports for many different reasons. Gender equity is just one factor in those decisions. Media continue to focus on elimination of wrestling at high-visibility universities even though, nationwide, wrestling numbers are increasing. In fact, men's participation in college athletics overall has increased since Title IX began. The bottom line is that schools can maintain many athletic teams if they are willing to allocate smaller budgets to the teams. On campuses like ours, where the athletic leaders and the coaches are willing to allocate resources so that more students can participate, the system works.

Historically, athletic playing fields have been the proving grounds for several cultural changes in the U.S. Professional baseball, for instance, shattered the accepted racial segregation of the period. Title IX has likewise disrupted the gender norms of our day. Supporting the letter and spirit of Title IX has made life better at our institutions for both women and men. One measure of success is that we have more women and men student athletes than ever before. And they admire and support each other. Football players cheer for the softball team at the conference tournament. The women's soccer team cheers on the men's cross country team.

Title IX is still maturing. Just imagine how many more changes in men's and women's lives we have yet to witness.

 



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