The Department of Education has just reversed a previous Title IX regulation that allowed colleges to survey student interest in athletics in order to decide which sports are more popular with their students. This new rule makes gender quotas the only sure measure of compliance and the only sure way to avoid lawsuits.
Title IX is part of the 1972 law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender in educational programs that receive federal funds. It covers a lot of issues, but athletics are the most controversial. The previous regulation stated that colleges can demonstrate athletics compliance in one of three ways: women’s sports participation at a level proportionate to their percentage of enrollment in college (a rule known as proportionality), expanding the number of athletic opportunities for women, or proving the school is meeting the athletic interests and abilities of women on campus.
Colleges soon found that the proportionality rule was the only safe way to avoid feminist harassment and lawsuits. The result has been the arbitrary cancellation of many sports opportunities for men. James Madison University explicitly cited compliance with the proportionality test when it cut seven men’s teams to force student athletic participation to match student enrollment which, at the time, was 61% female (although only 51% of females were involved in sports).
Women are now six out of ten college students nationwide, which means that under the Obama administration ruling, most schools must reserve 60% of athletic spots for women. Colleges usually have trouble filling all their female slots and they cut men’s programs as the easiest path to compliance. The new rule is a step backwards for everyone who cares about fairness in athletics.
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