Tuesday, April 27, 2010

NCAA Gender Equity and Issues Forum: Part 2

Yesterday the Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights, Russlyn Ali, addressed the NCAA Gender Equity and Issues Forum as the keynote speaker. It was great to be in an audience consisting of mostly of college athletic department officials as we cheered the Department of Education for rescinding the Model Survey policy last week and for promising to get tough with schools that are not in compliance with Title IX. I teach administrative law, and usually don't come across many examples of regulated entities embracing the regulator for strengthening and enforcing regulations. But the fact that they were speaks well of college athletic administrators and the NCAA. Their commitment to Title IX and their support for strong regulations and enforcement demonstrates that they are truly educators, looking out for what's best for students, even if that means their institutions have to work a little harder (or a lot harder, in some cases) to stay out of trouble with the law.

Here are some highlights from Assistant Secretary Ali's speech:
  • In response to those who have complained about the past administration's "slippage" in enforcement of Title IX, Ali promised, "those days are over." Ali reports that her staff is "happy to be doing civil rights again."
  • A wave of vigorous enforcement is already underway. OCR is being more responsive to complaints that are filed, and is planning to launch a number of investigations of its own in the next couple of months.
  • Specifically, OCR is planning to kick off 12 investigations of colleges, universities, or secondary schools by fiscal-year's end, half of these addressing athletics issues and the other half addressing sex discrimination in other aspects of the institution.
  • OCR's enforcement priorities in athletics relate to participation rates, financial aid, and the "laundry list" of factors used to determine if men's and women's athletic programs are receiving comparable treatment. The agency will target institutions with reported disparities (such as lack of proportionality, expenditures that favor men's athletics and men's scholarships) and will use the investigation phase to determine if those disparities are the result of discrimination.
  • OCR will also be examining institutions' compliance with existing monitoring agreements-- making sure that schools are doing what they said they would do in response to a complaint brought against them.
  • When it comes to enforcement remedies, "we will use all the tools at our disposal, including withholding of federal funds" if necessary to attain compliance.
  • Ali mentioned that OCR is also working on other issues, such as STEM education, bullying and harassment, and pregnancy. Regarding pregnancy, the agency plans to release a brochure --possibly a precursor to official guidance -- by fall.
  • Is OCR not responding to inquiries and complaints in a prompt and sufficient manner? The Assistant Secretary said, "email me: russlyn.ali@ed.gov."