Saturday, May 12, 2007

Commissioners Skeptical of Women's Interest in Sport

The U.S. Commission of Civil Rights held hearings on the Title IX interest survey policy yesterday. According to this coverage in USA Today, the Commissioners expressed support of the interest survey policy (as predicted). This support came notwithstanding testimony of the NCAA's Judith Sweet and NWLC's Joceyln Samuels, among others, who argued that the results of an interest survey only reflect past and ongoing discrimination against women and girls in sport and will thus ensure that discrimination continues.

The USCCR is not a typical agency. It has no enforcement powers, only the power and responsibility to investigate and provide reports on discrimination and to make recommendations to Congress and the President. To ensure the commission's independence from either political branch or party, half of its 8 members are appointed by the President and half by Congress. The President has limited power to remove commissioners prior to the expiration of their 6 year term. No more than four members may be from one political party. (The present USCCR consists of 4 Republicans, 1 independent, 2 Democrats, and 1 vacancy.)

Because of the USCCR's atypical function, it is not altogether clear what effect yesterday's hearing will have, if any. Any recommendations it might make will be precatory in nature and not carry the force of law. So even if the Commission endorses the interest survey policy (which it seems poised to do), OCR, the agency that enforces Title IX, remains as free as it has always been to reconsider it at any time -- as does Congress. On the other hand, having a second government agency endorse the interest survey policy could give political cover to a school that wants to be the first to rely on the survey as their sole manner of compliance. But that seems unlikely to me. OCR, the agency that enforces Title IX has already endorsed the survey policy and schools haven't jumped on board. So what the USCCR seems unlikely to make a difference.

Additional links of interest:
  • Inside Higher Ed has related coverage here.
  • The National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education submitted this report in support of its position against the interest survey policy.

1 comment:

Redshirt said...

First, I just want to say how much I appreciate this blog and all your work on it. Second, any chance you could give the Wikipedia entry on Title IX athletics a scrub?

But, on to my comment. You were very, very generous in your description of the USCCR. For those of you who do not know, President Eisenhower started the commision and knew how important that it be bipartisan. Thus, no one party could have a majority on the USCCR.

Until now. Commisioner Thernstrom, when appointed, was a lifelong Republican. She remained so until the Administration appointed another Republican. In order to do this, Thernstrom changed her party affiliation to Independent.


In any event, this packing of the
commission is all for naught. The
commission has no real power except
for the integrity of its work.

Now, that integrity is in question.
And with it, the possibility the
USCCR can do anything at all.