In a recent hearing in California, a state senator strongly questioned the folks at UC Davis over their recent decision to cut four intercollegiate athletic teams. Senator Dean Florez, who serves on the senate's Select Committee on Gender Discrimination and Title IX Implementation (out of curiously, do other states have such a committee?), feared that the cuts were not bringing Davis any closer to proportionality. Davis, prior to these cuts, faced a lawsuit brought by several female students who played club sports. They argued that Davis was not providing enough opportunities in athletics for female students. The settlement in that case binds Davis to achieving proportionality within +/- 1.5 percentage points within ten years.*
This could be part of Senator's Florez's concern. And I am glad that state legislators are paying attention to achieving equity (though not surprised given how much money Title IX lawsuits have cost the state of California in the past few years). But if I was a state senator in California (and hadn't already resigned in utter frustration), I wouldn't be giving UC Davis a hard time over cuts that they--given the current economic reality--had to make. The athletic department had to cut over $2 million from its budget. You cannot do that by simply reducing athlete per diems or limiting travel budgets.
It's a very...nuanced situation. Because according to the math Erin and I just did based on EADA data, Davis is indeed moving closer to proportionality. Taking into account the opportunities lost from these recent cuts, the percentage of women's opportunities is at 52. The undergraduate population is 56 percent women. The 4 percent difference represents 14 opportunities--if we were shooting for exact proportionality (we didn't calculate the 1.5). This is better than the 22 opportunity disparity that existed prior to the cuts.
But what exactly was Senator Florez getting at? That no cuts should have been made? That seems like an impossible situation at this point. Given that programs, faculty, administrative support at California schools are being and have been cut it would seem kind of...well wrong...to exempt athletics. The Title IX Blog has many friends and colleagues in California who are taking furloughs left and right. And though they are sport-minded people, it's not fair to ask some to sacrifice a lot and exempt others.
So then is Senator Florez saying that Davis should have cut only men's sports? Maybe. It is still possible for the crew team to bring a lawsuit against the school because they have not complied, at this point, with any of the three prongs. Would Davis itself be in a "safe harbor" (a term usually used by anti-IXers to discuss proportionality, in a negative way) because they have ten years to reach 1.5 percent proportionality? I don't know. It would be interesting to see how a court interpreted the previous settlement in light of the current situation. I am skeptical that such a move will occur given that Davis is so close to proportionality even with the cuts--something I assume they carefully calculated themselves--and that they are indeed bound by an existing settlement to make progress. It is unfortunate--as it always is--that "progress" has come in the form of cutting teams.
*Note that I was wrong--yes, I was wrong!--in an earlier post dated April 17 about UC Davis having to maintain 5 percent proportionality as a result of a lawsuit from the 1980s. Only institutions in the California State System (i.e. Cal State Riverside, Cal State Fresno) are bound by that ruling.