Monday, March 26, 2007

A conversation at Berkeley

Interesting "conversation" in the editorial pages of the UC Berkeley paper, The Daily Californian. Over a week ago, Olympic swimmer and long-time Title IX advocate, Donna de Varona, wrote this opinion about the state of Berkeley athletics. She cites the university's history of providing equitable opportunities for women but also the recent backsliding she has seen due to a variety of factors. (I won't rehash the details which she does a good job providing.)
A week later, this piece by the vice chancellor of admissions, Nathan Bostrom, appeared in response to de Varona's. Unfortunately Bostrom does not really take on any of the issues de Varona raised. He believes it was "ironic" that de Varona's piece was published the same week female athletes won six national titles (in track/field and swimming). He cites the numerous titles won by women's teams at Berkeley. He gives Berkeley's standing in the Pac-10 in terms of number of female athletes and women's teams. He talks about growth and championships and conference titles. This is all well and good--in fact it looks quite impressive. But it does not address de Varona's concerns but gender equity, because you cannot talk about equity and only gives facts and figures about the women's program. It is all relative. It does not matter how many female athletes Berkeley has in comparison to the rest of the Pac-10. It matters how proportional their female athletes are to their undergrad population. Within conference school sizes differ so saying you have one of the highest numbers of athletes does not mean all that much.
Bostrom uses the tactics of someone in admissions: he praises the program; he shows why Berkeley women's athletics are good.
De Varona takes the stand of a women's sports advocate who understands how to measure gender equity.

No comments: