Thursday, May 17, 2012

No, Santa Monica College, That's Not How Title IX Works.

Santa Monica College just added men's soccer.  OK, that by itself isn't a Title IX story, although when you take into consideration that women already only receive 43% of athletic opportunities despite constituting 52% of the student body, such a decision to widen that gap rather than narrow it certainly raises questions about the college's prudence and good judgment.   

Rather, the specific Title IX angle here is that SMC actually justified the decision to add men's soccer as somehow required, or at least blessed, by Title IX's prong three.  According to this article, SMC's VP of Student Affairs says that "SMC is in compliance with Title IX because men’s soccer has been the most requested sport by incoming students during the application process."

Um, no.  Title IX does not let you demonstrate compliance by showing that you added you added "the most requested sport by incoming students."  Prong three is an alternative to showing that athletic opportunities are proportionately distributed.  It requires that you to respond to unmet interest of the underrepresented sex, not the sex that already receives a majority of athletic opportunities.  Moreover, I'm not sure that SMC's prong three analysis of women's interest, which consisted of "looking over" the "incoming student application data" would satisfy prong three if OCR was looking over their shoulder.  While it may be the case that admissions data demonstrates no interest beyond the women's sports that are already offered at SMC, the prong three inquiry is actually much broader than that, and for good reason.   If you are only surveying the school's incoming students, you are only hearing from the ones who applied notwithstanding the lack of athletic opportunities.  You wouldn't hear from the women who would have applied IF you had a golf team (for example).  That is why OCR requires a prong three analysis that takes into account things like the popularity of sports at the high schools from which your student body is drawn.

Before I close, let me just shed some skepticism on the claim that all women's interests are satisfied by SMC's existing opportunities. Look at the rate of high school participation compared to college opportunities.  You don't think there's likely some unmet interest among women, as well as men?