As a sort of follow-up to my previous entry on college athletics, a few thoughts on the infamous and badly misunderstood “Title IX.”

(1) “Title IX” is actually part of the Education Amendments of 1972 to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It specifies, quite uncontroversially, I hope: “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.”

(2) Although most visible in higher education, Title IX also applies to elementary and secondary schools, as well as to federally-funded education programs in correctional institutions, health care institutions, etc. and to federally-funded programs such as internships and school-to-work.

(3) Although most notable in sports, the original Title IX legislation did not even include a reference to athletics. Rather, the Education Amendments of 1974 called on the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare to develop guidelines for the application of nondiscrimination regulations to intercollegiate athletics. But Title IX also — and perhaps more importantly — applies to bands, clubs, health facilities, dorms, dining halls, etc.

(4) I said there were two, but there are actually three tests that are used to determine compliance with nondiscrimination by sex in intercollegiate athletics. According to a 1979 document from the Office for Civil Rights of Office of the Secretary of Housing, Education, and Welfare:

(a) Whether intercollegiate level participation opportunities for male and female students are provided in numbers substantially proportionate to their respective enrollments; or

 

(b) Where the members of one sex have been and are underrepresented among intercollegiate athletes, whether the institution can show a history and continuing practice of program expansion which is demonstrably responsive to the developing interest and abilities of the members of that sex; or

 

(c) Where the members of one sex are underrepresented among intercollegiate athletes, and the institution cannot show a continuing practice of program expansion such as that cited above, whether it can be demonstrated that the interests and abilities of the members of that sex have been fully and effectively accommodated by the present program.

Reasonable people can certainly disagree about whether men and women should receive equal numbers of athletic scholarships for Division I and II athletics. But this is just a small part of the overall purpose of Title IX, just as scholarship-granting intercollegiate athletics is a small part of the overall purpose of colleges and universities.

Considered in the context of the larger purpose of Title IX and higher education generally, I favor a broad interpretation and strong enforcement of these statutes when applied to the very specific case of college sports and scholarships. And I say this as someone whose opportunity to play college baseball was taken away due to cutbacks in men’s sports back in the 1980s. Participation in college sports, for both men and women, is a privilege, not a right. But if we’re going to have them, it is a privilege that should apply equally to men and women.

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