Friday, January 05, 2007

Can a "good" program have a Title IX problem?

Erin and Sudha are off at AALS this week so I am doing my best to keep up with the Title IX news. Luckily there hasn't been too much going on.
There was an interesting article in the San Francisco Chronicle that came out just before the end of the year about the athletic programs at UC Berkeley in which writer Rick DelVecchio profiles the highly successful athletic program at Berkeley, especially the success and support of its women's teams. But the success has not lead to more opportunities for women.
Cal's proportionality numbers are very, to use a technical term, out of whack. Women comprise 54 percent of the undergraduate population but only 41 percent of student-athletes who compete on 15 teams. This, according to DelVecchio, means there is about a 100-student gap.
What is interesting about the article is that it initially appears to be unmotivated by any particular event or moment, as if it was just a slow news week and DelVecchio said "hey, let's check out how Cal stacks up in terms of Title IX compliance."
But reading on we discover that Cal is in the process of "an audit of Cal's record under Title IX to see if there is gender discrimination in sports programs." A few paragraphs later DelVecchio writes this:
One review now under way is part of Cal's latest report card to the National Collegiate Athletic Association's certification committee, which looks over the nation's most ambitious intercollegiate athletic programs every 10 years for compliance with association rules. This time around, the committee is particularly interested in what schools have done to promote gender equity.
Is the "audit" and the "review" the same thing? Audit seems like more of an internal process Cal undertook of its own accord. But the NCAA "report card" is an external mandate. But this too is confusing. Schools undergo NCAA reaccreditation processes in which they are required to form committees and write reports on the status of the athletic department, including--but not limited to--gender equity. And this process occurs more than once every ten years. More typically it is every 4-5 years. And not just the "ambitious" programs are subject to the process.
So I am not quite sure what exactly is happening out in Berkeley but if it is an NCAA reaccreditation process then administrators should be very concerned about the disparity in opportunities.
In the gender equity component of their report to the NCAA they will have to unequivocally state which prong they comply with. Prong 1, proportionality, is, as the article notes, not even close to being achieved. Prong 2, history of expanding programs and opportunities also seems like a hard sell. DelVecchio reports that Cal added teams in the 90s but that is just too long ago to be acceptable to the NCAA review committee.
It seems that all they are left with is prong 3, meeting the interests and abilities of its female student body. And according to athletic director Sandy Barbour--one of the few female ADs in the country--that is the option they are going with. She says: "I would like our numbers to look better for a variety of reasons, (but) I have every faith we are fully accommodating the interests of our student body." Faith in what, though? Has Cal surveyed its undergrads? How do they know the interests are being met? The article does not mention whether a survey has been done or will be done. But I don't think faith alone is going to satisfy any review committee--or the courts if it comes to that.

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