Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Alison Somin: The Obama Administration: Changing the Rules of the Title IX Game?

We wanted to let everyone know about a great piece that was published today by the Federalist Society concerning the Obama Administration and Title IX. "The Obama Administration: Changing the Rules of the Title IX Game?," by Alison Somin is a great look at the current state of the law.

That shouldn't entirely be a surprise, as Somin currently serves as a Special Assistant/Counsel at the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. You may recall that it was the commission that issued a report endorsing the use of the model survey to prove compliance for Title IX in intercollegiate athletics—a report that was published less than two weeks before the Obama Administration effectively rescinded their use.

From the article's conclusion:
The Obama administration should not have rescinded the Model Survey. If a court had upheld the Model Survey, it would have become easier for universities that are in fact in compliance with Title IX’s prohibition on gender discrimination to demonstrate that compliance under the third prong. Instead, the current numbers games to satisfy substantial proportionality requirements will continue. As a result of these games, budget-minded universities will be forced to divert resources away from programs for which there may be substantial demand (such as dance club, men’s wrestling, or cheerleading) and toward some women’s athletics team for which there is less demand. As in the Brown example, some teams may even have empty slots. Finally, Obama’s stance on the Model Survey foretells that his administration may soon adopt an aggressive approach to enforcing Title IX in academic science. “Title nining” academic science is a bad idea for both legal and policy reasons. First, the law was never intended to mandate strict proportionality in academic science. Secondly, there is no clear consensus among researchers regarding the causes of current gender disparities in science. Until these issues are better understood, a federally imposed solution might well do more harm than good.
Indeed. Just as they've done more harm than good in intercollegiate athletics. Please read it all right now.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Fact Checking the Women's Sports Foundation on John Stossel and Title IX

I had a hard time not chuckling a little bit in the run up to John Stossel's prime time special last Friday night. The reason—this tweet that the Women's Sports Foundation (WSF) let loose a couple of hours before it aired for the first time:

So what happened next? Well, I think it's safe to say that Ms. Hogshead-Makar had a pretty tough time dealing with Mr. Stossel. Not that we should be surprised, as most gender quota advocates are used to getting softball questions from the media. She stammered through some of her answers and had to sit by helplessly as Stossel accused her of being a "lawyer-tyrant." Believe me, it was compelling television.

I'm not terribly surprised that WSF went radio silent about the Stossel segment for a few days. After all, performances like that generally don't encourage donors to open their check books. But late on Wednesday night WSF finally got off the mat and issued a press statement entitled, "Fact Check: Fox's Stossel gets Title IX all wrong."

In the spirit of fair play and open discussion, I'm going to fact check the WSF's fact check of John Stossel. Here we go:
That's inaccurate. The use of strict gender quotas that have been harming men's athletics has been limited thus far to colleges and universities, not high schools (although it's clear the National Women's Law Center would like them to), so citing the data from the National Federation of State High School Associations at this point is irrelevant.

As for the NCAA data, it relies on some statistical sleight of hand. As the College Sports Council pointed out in a 2007 study, the growth in male athletic participation in the NCAA was attributable to the growth in member institutions, not organic growth in the number of athletes. When the growth in the NCAA was taken into account, a 25-year pattern of eliminating male athletic opportunities was revealed.
  • Fact check: Left out of Stossel’s segment is that Berkeley Athletics Department was suffering from an annual $10 million budget deficit, and that women’s teams were cut as well.
Whether the WSF wants to admit it or not, the men's rugby team at Berkeley was cut in order to help the school more easily comply with gender quotas. The school won't enjoy any budget savings from demoting men's rugby from varsity status as the program actually returns money to the school. As for the claim that women's teams were cut as well, that's true, but when you add up the total number of athletes that were cut from Cal's athletic department, men outnumbered women by a ratio of about 3-1.
  • Fact check: Men’s rugby was not cut; it was demoted to a status still above every other rugby program throughout the NCAA, varsity club. Various men’s and women’s sports teams were cut to save an estimated $5 million per year.
Others have wondered out loud exactly what "varsity club" status really means at Cal, but it hardly matters at this point. But as we just pointed out, men's rugby was totally self-sufficient, so demoting the team won't save Cal a single dime.

In fact, Jack Clark, the team's coach, offered to fund a new women's rugby team out of the men's teams revenues but was rebuffed by the school. Which again leads us to this conclusion: If Cal wasn't saving any money by cutting men's rugby, the only reason to demote the program was to get 60 or so male rugby players out of the athletic program so the school could get closer to proportionality.

And here's another whopper from WSF's fact check document: "Stossel claims that Title IX requires schools to provide sports opportunities proportionate to the student body, but there are two other tests that are widely used."

As we've pointed out in the past, there are two other prongs that schools can supposedly use to prove compliance with Title IX. Unfortunately, thanks to a combination of court decisions and guidance from the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights, implementing hard gender quotas are the only device that can guarantee that schools won't be subject to costly litigation if they cut any women's teams.

Don't believe me? Why not ask the lawyers at Quinnipiac University and Delaware State University? In both of those cases, schools sought to cut a variety of men's and women's programs in order to realize budget savings. But both schools were successfully sued by female athletes whose programs had been cut, but were then reinstated as part of a settlement. As for the men's programs, well, there was no similar reprieve.

And here's the last relevant point from the WSF document that we need to take issue with: "Stossel claims that Title IX is unfairly hurting men’s gymnastics, when it is the entire sport that has suffered declines for both males and females."

It's here that we see one of the great untold stories of Title IX—how gender quotas can harm both male and female athletes. Schools often struggle with meeting gender quotas. We've already talked about how this affects the men's side on the ledger. But on the women's side, schools looking to rapidly increase the number of female athletes will often add large roster sports like crew and soccer over small roster sports like gymnastics. With an incentive like that, it's not hard to see how sports like gymnastics, among others, could be terribly harmed.

So what's the lesson here? For years, the gender quota lobby has been used to getting nothing but adulatory press coverage. As a result, they've hardly ever had to answer any hard questions about the unintended effects of Title IX. But one you take a closer look, the damage is very easy to see.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

In Defense of Karch Kiraly

When arguing with gender quota advocates about Title IX, it's important to remember that the other side really only wants one of two possible outcomes: Either agree with all of their points or just shut up. If you don't believe me, take a look again at some of these folks in their most candid moments and you'll see what I mean.

The latest example of that comes from the the blog on gender and sports, After Atalanta, a publication that wants to subject sports announcers to a political test before getting on the air:
So I was kind of disturbed to see former v-baller Karch Kiralyi (sic) doing the commentary for the [NCAA Women's Division I Volleyball] tournament. Kiralyi is a board member of the Fairness in Sports Foundation. Fairness in Sports is dedicated to bringing back the "original intent" of Title IX. Of course the original intent of Title IX was to make sure women were not discriminated against in hiring decisions in educational institutions. But FISF does not like the use of Title IX to "promote" athletics on campuses even though they tout their male board members as working to fight against the elimination of men's athletics. I could go on about how they call themselves Title IX advocates...but another time and probably another place.

Anyway, I don't think ESPN should let people who actively campaign against equitable participation of women in sports, cover women's sports.
When it comes to sports broadcasting, there ought to be one simple standard: can the announcer do the job? And when it comes to Kiraly, who by all accounts is simply the best volleyball player, male or female, that America has ever produced, you'd figure he'd have all the bases covered. If you don't believe me, take a look at Kiraly's Wikipedia entry. If three Olympic golds, a world championship, three NCAA titles and 148 AVP Tour wins isn't enough, I don't know what else might be of help.

Then again, it's that record that makes Kiraly so dangerous. He's an Olympic hero, one that's led his nation to victory three times in a sport dominated by other nations. He's more than familiar with the stone cold fact that men's college volleyball is far smaller than its female counterpart, and that the gender quotas used to enforce Title IX are making it impossible for the sport to grow, despite ample evidence of growing interest.

Furthermore, no American has done more to popularize beach volleyball in this country, a movement that helped lead to the NCAA adopting it as an emerging sport. The great irony there, of course, is that NCAA beach volleyball is only open to women and not to men.

So, if Kiraly takes a public stand in favor of reforming Title IX, the other side isn't willing to debate him because they're likely to lose. So, instead of engaging Kiraly in a debate, they'd rather take a shot at destroying him. Something tells me that Kiraly is made of sterner stuff than his critics imagine.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Dischordant Note on Title IX at Media Matters

The folks over at Media Matters are upset at John Stossel thanks to the segment he ran on Title IX as part of his prime time special on "The Top 10 Politicians' Promises Gone Wrong."

But as it turns out, not every reader at Media Matters sings from the same hymnal, so to speak. Here's a comment from Media Matters that was left by one reader named BriCol:
Stossel may be a bonehead in my ways, but his final point is undoubedly true: Women are, on average, not as interested in sports as guys. Those are undisputed social statistics.

Even the Women's Sports Foundation (referenced above) recognizes those statistics. Their theory, though, is that this differing interest is sports is a "problem" that needs to be "remedied" by creating additional opportunities for women to entice them to participate -- even though those opportunities invariably require taking existing opportunities away from men. Do you agree?

Don't let people like Stossel -- who falsely state that there's no such thing as sexism anymore -- distract you as to the very real and serious question not at play in Title IX. It is this: Should government take the genders' interest levels as it finds them, and just make sure that neither gender gets fewer opportunities relative to its interest level than the other gender? Or is there a legitimate government interest in convincing women to become equally as interested in sports as men, such that government should engage in a sort of social engineering, taking boy's existing (and wanted) athletic slots and giving them to girls, even if currently unwanted, in the hope of manufacturing interest?

I'm a left-leaning, Fox-hating, Democrat-voting liberal, but I have to tell you, we're on the wrong side of this debate. Title IX is an anti-discrimination law and I agree with it. But the way its currently being applied is consistent with the second of the two above approaches, in that it ignores differing interest levels altogether, and takes slots from men and gives them to women in hopes of forcing women to become equally as interested in sports as men. Respectfully, I don't think that's justified, and in fact I think it ends up discriminating against men. Better, I think, for Title IX to be applied in a way that takes interest levels as it finds them. Isn't that more fair?
Every day, I become more and more convinced that we are winning this battle.

Delaware State Gets the Title IX Bill for Equestrian: $1.1 Million and Counting

Yesterday, a judge in Delaware approved the settlement agreement between Delaware State University and the members of the school's equestrian team in a suit that began a little less than a year ago. If you're interested in the history of the case, feel free to browse our archives, but what really caught my eye this morning was the price tag the school will have to pay to make this headache go away:
Under the agreement, the university will pay the team's attorney fees and court costs of about $500,000. DSU also has pledged to continue funding the team for the foreseeable future.

University leaders cut the team, along with men's tennis, in January, hoping to trim their athletic budget and funnel the savings into academics. The equestrian team costs about $600,000 per year to operate, DSU attorneys argued in court documents.
So, the first installment on the bill to keep equestrian totals about $1.1 million. Don't think for a second that a price tag like that won't encourage other schools to play it safe, and stick exclusively with cutting men's teams when they look to save money.

Monday, December 20, 2010

John Stossel on the Unintended Effects of Title IX

Last Friday night, Fox News aired a prime time special called, "The Top 10 Politicians' Promises Gone Wrong." At #8 on the list was Title IX. Here's that segment, in its entirety.

The segment is probably the best look at the issue on television that I've seen in some time. Please pass it around to your friends.

Cal Rugby Coach Jack Clark Calls Out Title IX's Gender Quota

It's been a little more than three months since Cal cut five varsity teams, but the teams that were eliminated aren't done taking their case to the media. Over the weekend, Jack Clark, head coach of the men's rugby team at Cal, talked to the International Herald Tribune:
Clark, who also played for the Bears and the U.S. national team, argues rugby has been one of the more financially sound programs thanks to its supporters and alumni fund-raising and endowments — something Mogulof disputes — he believes it is because of the Title IX legislation that rugby is being downgraded.

“We’re a team of 60 young males in the program, so that head count hurt us. I knew that once we cut a women’s sport we were going to be in trouble, and I was just hoping that we didn’t cut a women’s sport,” Clark said.

“But Title IX is not meant to be a calculus where men’s teams get eliminated to improve ratios. My view of Title IX was to increase women’s opportunities and that’s not what we are doing here.

“We are eliminating women’s opportunities and by doing so we need to eliminate more men’s opportunities and that is just a slippery slope once you start that.”
Whenever anyone tells you that Title IX didn't influence the cuts at Cal, remember that when Coach Clark offered to fund a women's team out of his own team's revenues if the team was reinstated, the school rejected the offer.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

School Budget Crunch in New Mexico Revels Folly in National Women's Law Center's Title IX Plan

On the day that the National Women's Law Center (NWLC) announced their nationwide Title IX initiative, I dialed into their conference call to listen in on the particulars of their announcement. One question that seemed to be on the minds of the reporters on the call was this: with so many school districts slashing their budgets, where did the NWLC expect schools to get the additional funds to add new sports for high school girls?

It's a fair question, but one that the folks assembled on the call didn't seem to think was a very big deal. But today, I saw this news out of New Mexico that ought to demonstrate just how tight things really are out there for schools these days:
With Santa Fe Public Schools facing a large budget shortfall, the issue of how it will affect athletics is beginning to percolate.

Cuts to next year's school budget are projected to be around $13 million, and SFPS athletic director Skip Hemperley said the district could severely reduce his budget — or possibly eliminate the department.

Hemperley emphasized that all options are being considered.

"As it was explained at a meeting in the fall, everything is on the table," Hemperley said. "So it's a true aspect that they will take look at it (eliminating athletics). So, it's possible."

The athletic department budget for the 2010-11 school year is $999,999, which is less than the $1.3 million allocated for 2009-10 and $1.8 million in 2008-09.
Unreal. With so many schools struggling, the NWLC proposal is incredibly irresponsible. Then again, it ought to be clear that they don't care, as they're probably counting on a big pay day from suing school districts that don't respond to their public shakedown.