Wednesday, February 23, 2011
So I was surprised to read a blog post on the Chicago Tribune website Chicago Now entitled "The Unforeseen Consequences of Title IX" by Kirk Mango. Note that the title is pretty ubiquitous. Opponents of Title IX use it all the time to talk about a myriad of issues. But the post colon blog title "Top Iowa High School Wrestler Defaults, Won't Face Girl" was a little surprising. Because, again, Title IX does not require integration of teams when the sport is a contact sport. And as Joel Northrup pointed out when he issued a statement about his default to Cassy Hekelman, wrestling is a contact sport.
Girls have gained access to wrestling either because they have just been allowed to participate or because they have sought legal remediation under either an individual state's equal rights amendment or the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution.
But no one seems to be writing pieces titled The Unforeseen Consequences of Equal Protection.
For more on this I highly recommend Dr. Sarah Fields's book Female Gladiators: Gender, Law, and Contact Sport in America. She specifically addresses the legal and cultural controversies girls' wrestling has engendered.
So I hope Mr. Mango picks up Fields's book. As someone who in involved in promotion of youth sports (he has a website called Becoming a True Champion about empowering individual athletes) he--and all who work in youth through intercollegiate sports--should know what Title IX does and does not do.
2/24 UPDATE: Mr. Mango has changed his post to reflect the fact that Title IX was not a factor in the integration of wrestling. This is the new post.
Friday, February 18, 2011
Restoring the women’s teams won’t eliminate the sports gender gap at Berkeley or expand opportunities for women. But it does show that they are trying to meet women’s interests and abilities. The benefits to young women from playing sports are well documented, in their health, psychological outlook, educational performance and future employment. Female athletes also say that sports give them a wonderful opportunity to test themselves.
When money is tight, the struggle to close the gap in athletic opportunity is even tougher. Thanks to Title IX, if something has to give, equality doesn’t go first.
Thursday, February 17, 2011
As I told the reporter for this story, it is often challenging for retaliation plaintiffs to prove that the reason for the adverse employment consequences (here, not being rehired) was retaliation for complaining about discrimination, rather than for some other neutral purpose such as the financial or budgetary reasons DVC maintains. Therefore, it is significant that the coaches in this case allege that they were directly told by the athletic director that "there would be negative consequences for filing a complaint." If that evidence proves true, these coaches would prevail on what is usually the highest hurdle for plaintiffs in retaliation cases.
(N.B. In case the plaintiffs or their lawyers are reading this, please know that the aforementioned reporter had asked me about general background on the retaliation standard, not about the details of your case, which were not available to me at the time I spoke to him. Therefore, while I did tell him about the aspects of the retaliation doctrine that are generally most difficult to prove, it is entirely inaccurate to suggest, as he does, that I told him I thought you might have a "hard time" winning your case. I hope he honors my request for a correction.)
Also, the complaint sufficiently alleged that the university responded with deliberate indifference to harassment about which it had actual notice. This allegation actually takes two forms. First, the plaintiff alleged that an appropriate university official, the Director of Student Life - Judicial Affairs, was aware of prior incidents of sexual harassment involving the Sigma Chi fraternity and failed to take any action that could have protected the plaintiff or any other women from the risk that Sigma Chi would be the grounds for future similar incidents. Secondly, she alleged that university officials responded inadequately to actual knowledge of her own assault. When ASU campus police arrived at the emergency room where the plaintiff was being treated, they failed to give the necessary authorization for medical personnel to conduct a rape kit or authorize a nurse exam. Neither the campus police nor the university's judicial affairs investigated the incident other than to take plaintiff's statement. No one from Sigma Chi was even interviewed about the event.
This is an important decision because it allows the plaintiff to continue to press her claims not just that the university botched its response to her case, which seems pretty egregious to me, but to generally contest and shed light upon the university's culture of looking the other way about the bad behavior of a notoriously problematic fraternity. Known as a "party house," Sigma Chi had just the day before plaintiff's assault been put on probation for hazing and alcohol violations. Nor was this Sigma Chi's first offense -- the plaintiff alleged a five-year history of violations including aggression, intimidation, humiliation, and hostility toward women. If these claims prove true, mere probation seems like a mere slap on the wrist unlikely to offer meaningful protection to other students, satisfying the "deliberate indifference" requirement. That aspect of this case therefore has the potential to send the message to ASU and other universities that it doesn't pay to enable fraternities to provide the context for sexual harassment and assault.
One other observation: this is not the first time we've blogged about rape at ASU. An earlier case involving rape committed by a football player produced a settlement in 2009 that requires all the Arizona state universities to institute programs addressing issues of women's safety on campus. This obligation does not affect the Sigma Chi assault at issue in this case, which occurred prior to that settlement. But it does raise questions about the culture of sexual violence generally at ASU, and how that problem is being addressed both in and outside of the Greek system.
Decision is: Babler v. Arizona Board of Regents, Case 2:10-cv-01459-RRB (ordering denying defendant's motion to dismiss) (D. Ariz. Feb. 15, 2010) (no westlaw cite yet available)
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
According to the associate director of the state's high school athletic association, JoAnne Austin, athletic administrators in the state are required to have a working knowledge of Title IX which appears to lead to an overtly pro-Title IX stance.
"For a lot of schools, big time schools, football is king. Football is what makes them the money and I really think that Title IX keeps them in check to some extent. And I think that if Title IX were to go away, you'd start to see a slide back, and more and more money and funds being funneled into football...where you would literally probably have football only schools."
Not sure if there would be football-only schools, but I do think there would be some significant backsliding.
Friday, February 11, 2011
So it appears they are indeed trying to unring the bell. How successful this move is remains to be seen. When the NYT picks up a story and runs the numbers (months and months after some of us noticed the discrepancy... but better late than never), people pay attention. And so Cal remains on the spot having to answer to athletes, alums, the anti-IXers, and the media. And to advocates as well. I still wonder how it is that Cal can claim that when the initial decision to cut five sports was made last fall that the Title IX ramifications were factored into the discussion.
So here are the new numbers based on the three sports being saved as based on EADA data. Men have 524 opportunities. Women have 388. That bumps up the percentage of female athletic opportunities to 42%. While Cal is still planning on adding roster spots to current women's teams and reducing roster sizes on the men's side, I don't know how they can make up such a disparity doing that. In other words, it does not seem like prong one compliance is an immediate option. And it is hard to tell if adding those roster spots will constitute prong two compliance. It's possible. And given that the women's rugby team asked to be elevated to varsity status, it also looks like prong three is not an option.
In short, until Cal reveals a specific plan, they remain on very shaky ground.
Thursday, February 10, 2011
But I'm not so sure that Cal can simply unring this bell by undoing last fall's decision. After all, they weren't any closer to proportionality back then. And even restoring women's gymnastics and lacrosse, it is still far from certain that it is achieving compliance by the alternative method of demonstrating no unmet interest in women's athletics. As the Times article notes, the athletic department denied a request to elevate the women's rugby team to varsity status. If those disappointed athletes sue or complain, they would have a strong case that could produce an obligation on Cal to add them, or come into compliance some other way. Cal's decision to cut teams brought the university into a compliance spotlight, and that spotlight will be very hard to shake.
Wednesday, February 09, 2011
PLF sent letters to the district offices of OCR suggesting that the 3-prong test does not apply to high school athletics. And CSC sent letters to the actual districts, targeted by NWLC for their especially disproportionate distribution of athletic opportunities, suggesting that the districts fight complaints.
Both organizations are claiming that high schools do not have to meet the 3-prong test and that application of the test to high school athletics might be unconstitutional--specifically that it violates the Equal Protection Clause.
Responses from the Department of Education and NWLC mention that this issue is moot; that PLF already raised it--two years ago--and that some courts have already applied it to high schools.
It will be interesting to see if the hand being offered by CSC to the affected districts will be taken by any of them in a potential fight with the Department of Education.
Monday, February 07, 2011
Saturday, February 05, 2011
USA Cheering's season of STUNT began last week with a competition at University of Louisville featuring teams from the host institution as well as West Virginia University, and Moorehead State.
You might recall a certain schism in the cheering world that occurred after the announcement of the Quinnipiac University cheerleading decision last summer. USA Cheer, a for-profit entity that, to date, has controlled the majority of...well...all things cheerleading (competitions at all levels, apparel, gear, camps) in the US for decades. USA Cheer announced it was creating a sport called STUNT with the aim of meeting NCAA standards for an emerging sport and Title IX standards for what constitutes a sport.
They are seemingly in competition with a group comprised of university administrators seeking the same end goals. This group, the National Collegiate Acrobatics and Tumbling Association, has partnered with USA Gymnastics in an attempt to give competitive cheerleading sport status at colleges and universities.
Anyway STUNT has scheduled about 10 contest over the course of its season (the establishment of a season is part of the requirements) that lasts from January until April.
The first competition was deemed a success by its organizers:
"This competition was a huge success for USA Cheer and STUNT, the competitive morale and immense team spirit at the event was evidence that STUNT is becoming increasingly more popular and important in communities across the country," said USA Cheer Executive Director, Bill Seely.
The first link above explains the format of the competitions and how STUNT (not sure why the all-caps thing) is different from traditional cheer.
Friday, February 04, 2011
Yegidis, who is now a Professor of Social Work at the University of South Florida, has not said whether she plans to appeal the verdict. She did tell the press that she's disappointed in the verdict and hopes that it doesn't "send a message to people -- to men and women -- that they can't bring cases forward."
But the raising of the concern clearly triggered an investigation and brought Pennepacker into the situation. Her report goes a lot further than just winter sports, too. (Sometimes educational administrators are not very smart.) A large concern highlighted in the report seems to be the use of booster donations. Or at least that is what people are talking about. And it seems the ad-hoc committee, created in order to "digest" the report, is getting on the booster club issue immediately, suggesting that there be a district-wide booster club policy and that financial audits of booster clubs be conducted.
And I can see why a special digestion committee is necessary. Here are the rest of the items that "warrant action" in order to achieve Title IX compliance.
Increase number of participation opportunities.
- Improve equality in supply and condition of athletic equipment and supplies.
- Improve scheduling use of athletic facilities including locker rooms, practice and competition facilities.
- Re-evaluate team transportation and meal allocations.
- Recruit best-qualified coaches and offer coach training.
- Make publicity and promotional activities available to all groups.
- Improve game and practice scheduling.
- Re-evaluate access to training facilities and medical services
Wednesday, February 02, 2011
Former Athletic Director Merrily Dean Baker also took the stand and described her role in underlying Title IX dispute, meeting with female coaches and compiling their concerns about discrimination in a letter to Bradshaw's predecessor, Richard Pegnetter.
Tuesday, February 01, 2011
Professor Emeritus Eric Clausen (Minot State University) is naming the NGB as well as other entities and charging them with failure to make the geography bee more fair to girls. He filed a previous claim, which included an allegation that he was retaliated against for his complaints, that was dismissed (see our prior post here). This time he has added additional groups to the list of defendants including his own university.
The details offered in the above linked article are not that clear, and I cannot speak to the merits of Clausen's case.
But I can comment on a few things. First, the preponderance of male winners of the national bee is indisputable: only 2 female winners in the 19-year history of the bee. The North Dakota state contest has an overwhelming majority of male contestants. NGB has apparently looked into this, including commissioning a study by two Penn State researchers in 1996. But the study only found that there is a small difference in what girls and boys know about geography. The study is slated to be updated in the next year.
But really, that's it? I hope the conclusions went a little deeper than that and the article just left them out. But this section of the article worries me:
Beverly Sandness, director of the North Dakota bee, was asked if she had a theory on why boys have dominated the competition.
“No,” she said. “Everybody has their own, I suppose, slant on that. I’ve been in education since 1959 and some things are just hard to explain.”
Someone who has been in education for 52 years thinks that gender differences in the ways boys and girls experience the educational system in this country is just "hard to explain." I find that worrisome. I am NOT in primary education, but even I have a few theories as to why the boys might be dominating in these contests that has nothing to do with that so-called slight difference in what they know about geography. Maybe it has something to do with the performance aspect of the event, specifically what it means to perform your intelligence in front of both peers and strangers. This is a contest for students in grades four through eight. A time when girls are ingesting different messages about what it means to be a girl, when being smart is not as highly prized as being pretty, when beating boys might not be as socially acceptable.
These might not be issues NGB can completely alleviate. But they should at least be aware of the issues and be discussing them and their ramifications on NGB contests. Hard to say if a questionable lawsuit will get them there.