Thursday, July 26, 2007

Senator Proposes "California Title IX"

At the conclusion of this week's hearings into gender (in)equity in the California State University system -- motivated by the multi-million dollar jury verdict against Fresno State -- Senator Dean Florez has made a number of recommendations for reform that he calls "California Title IX."

One recommendation is for CSU to tie job performance of University presidents and top administrators -- and consequently, eligibility for raises and promotions -- to campus compliance with three Title IX goals that were outlined in a consent decree that ended an earlier lawsuit against the university system. Those three goals are: (1) to attain a percentage of female student athletes that is within 5 percentage points of the percent of women in the student body; (2) to ensure that the percentage of the athletic budget for women's athletics is within 10 percentage points the percent of women in the student body; and (3) to ensure that the percent of athletic scholarships for women is within 5 percentage points of the percent of women in the student body.

Incidentally, Fresno State actually already complies with the first goal, but if this proposal went into effect, they would have to increase scholarship dollars and operating expenses for the women's athletics. The campus is 58% female and women receive only 46% of athletic scholarship dollars and 31% of the operating expenses.

Another of Senator Florez's proposals would create a new Gender Equity Office that would be responsible for compliance and would report directly to the CSU Trustees. Currently, each institution's general counsel doubles as the Title IX compliance officer. Because the university counsel answers to the president, this change would ensure that the person responsible for compliance could go above the president's head and prevent the president from stonewalling investigations or other compliance-seeking measures.

This change would also help the general counsel avoid what is sometimes a conflicting interest between enforcement and compliance. When compliance is measured internally, the institution will often factor in whether a particular compliance measure is cost effective. If the risk of getting penalized for noncompliance is low and the cost of the compliance measure is high, the general counsel may exploit the "gray areas" of a legal requirement, as a university counsel explained in a recent column in the Chronicle. Therefore, external enforcement is a necessary supplement (or substitute) for internal compliance.

But does Florez's proposal do enough to externalize gender equity enforcement? The Gender Equity Office may be external to each university, but still operates internally within university system and answers to the Trustees, who are also concerned about compliance costs, and as such, might be as just as likely as presidents and general counsels to invoke lenient interpretations of regulatory requirements. I wonder if the policymakers in Sacramento have considered implementing enforcement at the state level?

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