Monday, May 02, 2011

Brown to cut sports--or maybe not

It's been a big news week generally and in Title IX land. We apologize for not keeping up.
Last week I kept meaning to write about how a Brown University committee was recommending the elimination of four sports from the varsity roster: wrestling, men's and women's fencing, and women's skiing. There was a list of eight criteria the committee followed when making the decision. Gender equity was listed as the eighth.
But then President Ruth Simmons announced (perhaps in light of seemingly immediate action to save the sports driven in large part by the wrestling program's alums from what I have read) that no decision will be made until fall semester.
But let's run the numbers anyway given that Brown was at the center, many years ago, of a very contentious and precedent-setting Title IX case. (It's always good to see if institutions remember their own history after all.)
Currently it appears (based on the latest data from the Department of Education) that women comprise 52 percent of the undergraduate student body and receive 46 percent of the athletic opportunities.
If the recommendations are enacted this is what changes (I am keeping the 52 percent the same while noting that undergraduate enrollment could change of course):
Not too much. Women would have 47 percent of the opportunities. But again, enrollment numbers and even roster numbers could change that figure slightly.
In other words, it's close, even though male athletes will receive the brunt of the cuts, the female student-athletes could have a case that they should not be cut because Brown has not achieved proportionality. Because while the 5% +/- figure has been thrown around when talking about how close to proportionality a school must be, there really is no magic number.