Tuesday, November 21, 2006

"Live" Title IX Discussion

Well it was live a few weeks ago. But the transcript of the discussion of Title IX sponsored by The Chronicle of Higher Education and featuring Dr. Mary Jo Kane of the University of Minnesota and Tucker Center For Research on Girls and Women in Sport can be found here.
The forum is moderated and guests ask questions which the featured discussant then answers. Most of the questions were related, sometimes tangentially, to the JMU cuts and most of her answers involved a discussion of football. So in that sense there was not necessarily a lot of new information or suggestions presented. (I think most Title IX proponents are on board regarding cutting the size of football squads.)
But she, via the question-askers, made some good points. First, Kane called repeatedly for greater transparency in athletic department budgets, especially at public institutions. Some of these numbers are available but not broken down in the way I think Kane is advocating. For example, if a football team goes to a bowl game the money the department gets for that is put in the "revenue" column. But where it ends up in the various expense columns is not always readily apparent. Is it going to fly the coach on a private plane to recruit the new quarterback or is it going to paying for a professional (versus student) trainer for the gymnastic team's away meets? If people are still arguing that football supports other programs--which as we know occurs in a very small percentage of institutions--it would actually help to see what this alleged support looks like.
Also, Kane did an excellent job explaining the problematic aspects of the interest prong of Title IX including offering the "be careful what you wish for" warning. She notes that interest surveys might not necessarily just add sports but also take away some. For example, a survey could indicate an "interest" (and she writes about the vague definition of interest) in soccer--in a school without a team--but little for gymnastics which already exists. Does a school cut a team to add another?
I was a little disappointed that she ended the discussion with what I see as nationalist rhetoric that aims to appease anti-Title IXers: "I urge us to come together to ensure equitable opportunities for females without eliminating men's sports. If we do that, it's a win-win for basic American values."
American values seems just as vague to me as "interest" and also relies on historical constructions of cultural values that Kane herself deconstructs to make some of her points.
[But what is more irksome to me, and slightly off-topic here, is that moderator at the end thanked "Mary Jo" for her participation. I looked up other forums and all but one of the male guests were referred to by their full names. Kane is PhD-holding tenured professor in the Kinesiology Department at Minnesota in addition to her work as director of the Tucker Center and she holds adjunct appointments in American Studies and Feminist Studies. I think she earned the right to be referred to as her full name at the very least, and her title would be nice too.]
Overall I think, especially in the wake of the JMU situation, such a forum with a well-known sport scholar making very clear points addressing the basic questions most who do not study Title IX have is an essential tool in the fight to keep Title IX a formidable regulation.

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