Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Columnist Examines Rihanna, Single-Sex Ed

A student columnist in the Cornell Daily Sun had an interesting take on the New York Times' recent piece on single-sex education. Author Ariela Rutkin-Becker uses the Rhianna/Chris Brown situation to demonstrate the harm in the messages sent to children when we separately teach boys to be tough and girls to be sensitive. Referring to the teachers profiled in the article, she writes
Ms. Hudson’s baby-talk [to her all-female class: "remember what I spoke to you about? About being the bright shining star that you are?] and Mr. Napolitano’s hyper-macho rhetoric [to his class of boys, on "how to be a man"] only help to perpetuate the idea that w omen are the fairer sex. Which brings us to the Rihanna situation....Rihanna’s acquiescence is terrifying because of her idol status to the aforementioned demographic: young and impressionable girls who are now even more accustomed to the idea of automatically — within a month! — forgiving a man who beats you.
Will girls be even more willing to accept Rihanna's forgiveness of her abuser as model behavior as they absorb the messages sent by single sex education? Rutkin-Becker quotes an article about Rihanna's forgiveness of Brown: “Teenage girls […] have been taught that ‘what really matters is that we don’t destroy boys.’ [They] think that if they speak out against an abuser, the boy’s future will be shattered.” The message sent by single sex education is, similarly, that "what really matters is that we don't destroy boys." This lesson is underscored in all-girls classrooms, which, "run like a therapy session" (according to the Times) fail to teach girls to girls to exert their power. Meanwhile, next door, the boys are toughening up. We can't let these social experiments continue and expect to change the culture of girls who identify with and support women who expect abuse and forgive their abusers. As Ritkin-Becker put it,
We must teach our girls the good intention behind Ms. Hudson’s patronizing tone — that each one is, indeed, a “bright shining star.” But part of being this star means that you don’t take shit from anyone. I’m waiting for that part to be incorporated into any school curriculum — single-sex or otherwise.

Monday, March 30, 2009

NCAA addresses pay-for-play questions

The NCAA has added to its website a piece that addresses frequently asked questions and frequently unasked for opinions on the issue of paying student-athletes.
And Dr. Boyce Watkins of Syracuse University provides his own response to the NCAA's responses over at The Black Athlete Sports Network. Dr. Watkins makes a connection between the exploitation of athletes and that of slaves in 19th century America. It's a bold comparison and I am not sure I see as clearly as he does the same pedantic tone in the NCAA's response as existed in the rhetoric from slave owners. But in the end he's right on the mark when he points out how others--individuals mostly--are getting rich off of these athletes. And when he notes that it just doesn't seem right that coaches are getting millions when their own athletic departments are operating in the red.
He does rebut the NCAA's contention that there would be Title IX issues invoked if student-athletes started receiving salaries, though I'm not quite sure why Watkins believes it would not be an issue unless he sees athletes being compensated by entities other than their respective institutions--though even if say NBC was the one doling out the cash there still might be equity issues.
In the end, I agree with a lot of what Watkins has to say regarding the NCAA's arguments. But I would rather see reform in some of these areas like coaching contracts and television deals rather than adding student-athletes to the payroll. I know it's like trying to close Pandora's box (and stuff everything back in at the same time) but I'll keep advocating for that approach.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

FGCU has a plan

After all the turmoil of the past couple of years, FGCU has a plan to "fix the root of its problems." It's a three-part process that actually does not seem to be much of a plan given that each of the three parts involves a lot of reviewing--and not a lot of action. But we shall see.

Phase one--a review of the school's Human Resources Department--is complete. It was in HR files that the very questionable negative reviews of the coaches who brought forth the initial gender equity complaints were stored as "evidence." (See the above linked article for the findings presented by the independent investigator.)

Phase two is a Title IX review. I thought this had already been done--perhaps even more than once.

And phase three is a campus climate survey. My experience with campus climate surveys is that they are done when the administration, which is largely to blame for whatever climate has been created, feels the need to appease those who are protesting said climate.

Clearly, I am a little cynical. But I do not think FGCU has given me reason to think otherwise. Also remember that they are not undertaking this three-part process of their own volition. It was part of the settlement.

The one proverbial ray of hope is that Dr. Christine Grant is doing the Title IX review. Having seen her in action, I know she will not hesitate to tell FGCU what they probably do not want to hear. (And she's getting paid for it!)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Indiana HS OK's Girl's Tuxedo

An update on the prom story we blogged about last week: Indiana's Lebanon High School has lifted its requirement that girls wear formal dresses to the prom. The ACLU had challenged the policy in court on behalf of a lesbian client who intends to wear a tuxedo in consistency with her sexual orientation and preferred gender presentation.

Cutting hockey in Minnesota

I didn't think they could actually do that--that it was protected by the state charter or something. But it's true and a sign of how bad things actually are--in case you missed the speech last night. A Minnesota state school is cutting hockey. Minnesota-Crookston has decided to end its DII program to save money. No firm figures on just how much money, but the team's travel costs alone are $85,000-$90,000 annually.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

SUNY Binghamton Athletic Department Officials Charged with Sexual Harassment

Thanks to the tip from a fellow attendee of the Sport, Sexuality and Culture conference in Ithaca last week, I learned about a complaint filed against SUNY Binghamton Athletic Department officials charging them with "egregious acts of sexual misconduct." Elizabeth Williams, an athletic department fundraiser, alleges that Senior Associate Athletic Director Jason Siegel and Assistant Athletic Director for Development Chris Lewis took the opportunity of a fundraising dinner to encourage donors who offered her money for sex, to discuss her chest size and to suggest she work as a topless waitress at an event. Also, she alleges that one of her superiors told her, "You were not hired to have an opinion, but to look good and flirt with donors."

She also claims that the university reassigned her to her home and told her not to appear at university athletic events. (The article does not say, but I assume she is arguing that reassignment was retaliation either for complaining about or resisting the officials' suggestions.)

Williams filed her complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the federal agency that enforces federal employment discrimination laws, rather than in court. As such, she cannot invoke Title IX because it is not within the EEOC's enforcement jurisdiction. However, if her case does find its way to court (as EEOC matters often do), she will likely argue that the officials actions violate Title IX as well as Title VII.

While no two cases are exactly alike, it is worth noting the other two cases that I know of in which a female athletic department employee charged athletic department officials with similar acts of exploitation. First, Stacy Johnson-Klein testified in her case that the AD at Fresno State once suggested she "go one one one" with an athletic department donor; also, like Williams, Johnson-Klein was told she was hired for her looks. A second example is Deena Dearduff Schmidt, who alleged in her case against San Diego State that her athletic director did nothing while a donor repeatedly grabbed her and promised to donate money to construct a new pool if she had sex with him. Johnson-Klein's case cost Fresno State $9.9 million and Schmidt's cost SDSU $1.45 million -- so heads up, Binghamton.

SCOTUS won't stop JMU

Equity in Athletics's attempts to stop James Madison University's elimination of 10 varsity sports has experienced an additional setback. The Supreme Court will not hear the group's request for temporary injunction that would mandate JMU reinstatement the teams until the issue is settled once and for all in court.
But, according to this article, EIA presses on. The group will continue to fight, in district court, for the permanent reinstatement of the teams.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Urban girls and Title IX

Very good article from Women's eNews that focuses on the establishment of competitive girls double dutch in New York City.
But importantly, the writer also points out numerous facts that often get lost when we talk about opportunities for girls and the enactment of Title IX.
Tina Sloan Greene, co-founder of Black Women in Sport Foundation in Philadelphia, reminds us that:
Title IX is great but in order to bring about change it takes activism on the parts of parents and people who understand legislation.
Also, she and others point out the often greater disadvantage experienced by urban girls including fighting for fewer resources. Unfortunately awareness of inequity by girls and parents in high schools generally, but especially in urban schools, is not as heightened as at the college level. (Though we believe it is increasing and will likely jump if the legislation that mandates reporting in high schools--proposed by Senator Snowe--passes.) This has been evident in the far fewer complaints regarding inequities in high schools.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

ACLU Sues California HS for Enabling Homophobic Climate

The ACLU has sued the Newport-Mesa Unified School District in California for failing to address bullying and harassment targeting gay students at Corona Del Mar High School. Its primary example (alleged) involves three football players' threats of rape and murder, imbued with gay slurs, which were directed at a female classmate in January. Their actions were recorded and posted on Facebook, yet school officials did little to discipline the boys or protect the girl involved and essentially, according to the ACLU, were dismissive of the matter. Other examples of a homophobic climate at Corona Del Mar, which has worsened in the wake of the Prop 8 campaign, is the school's decision to cancel a student production of gay-themed musical Rent. The principal later reversed the decision, likely due to student outcry and national media attention it received, however, the ACLU's complaint alleges that the students involved were retaliated against for going to the press.

In addition to a Title IX deliberate indifference to harassment claim, the complaint also invokes the federal and state constitution's equal protection clauses and California's education statute, which enumerates sexual orientation as a category protected from discrimination. Plaintiffs are seeking unspecified monetary damages and other remedies including a complaint filing process at school, diversity training for students and staff, designated staff contacts for harassed students, and a survey of attitudes toward sexual orientation.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Adding competitive dance to achieve compliance

We haven't heard a lot about competitive dance teams being used to achieve compliance. Much of the attention has been given to competitive cheerleading at the collegiate level. But competitive dance falls into that same ambiguous category as cheerleading. They are not often sanctioned sports and thus counting the students who participate in them becomes a little suspect.

A school district in Ohio is considering adding competitive dance in a move toward equity. A survey undertaken by the district revealed that competitive dance was the most popular option among female students. This story raises a few interesting issues.

First, the use of surveys to determine interest. If the girls want it--overwhelmingly it seems--shouldn't they be afforded the opportunity? Of course, if it isn't really a sport...Which leads to the question that surveys do not address--why don't girls want to play sports that are already sanctioned? Let me note here that I am not suggesting that traditional sports are best. I see a lot of value in alternative sports. But I also do not consider dance an alternative sport. This argument is becoming very circular, but I do have a point. The point is that such a survey reveals that the sports that girls are exposed to and encouraged to participate is still very much influenced by dominant beliefs about masculinity and femininity.

Second, and this point is a little more clear, dance is cheap. Relatively cheap anyway. In Ohio they are seeking a volunteer coach or someone who already coaches another sport. What this suggests is that dance is not going to be as valued as other sports which are provided more comprehensive support and that they are looking for an inexpensive way to achieve equity. I would not be surprised, given the current economic situation, to see other schools--even at the collegiate level--add dance to become compliant.

Monday, March 16, 2009

It's Prom Season Again, Bring on the Lawsuits

Every year around this time it seems we get to post about a student's lawsuit challenging a school district's gender-based prom policies. This year's lawsuit targets Lebanon (Indiana) School District, which has refused to allow a lesbian student to wear a tuxedo to her high school prom. The student, represented by the ACLU, claims that the restriction violates her First Amendment right to freely express her sexual orientation, and is an illegal sex discrimination in violation of Title IX. A legal scholar quoted in the article points out that gender-based dress codes, such as those prohibiting boys from wearing earrings, have been upheld by courts, but that prom-specific dress codes have not received definitive treatment.

The fact that this policy appears to target the student because of her sexual orientation could help the ACLU distinguish it from the typical dress code case and may underscore her free expression claims in a way that a more general gender-based dress-code policy (such as one prohibiting all girls from wearing pants to school?) would not.

Moreover, as a student interviewed in the story pointed out, there is a certain irony in morals-based opposition to girls in tuxedos, which is more "conservative" attire than the often revealing and sexually-suggestive dresses that girls are allowed to wear. On the other hand, she aptly stated, "A tuxedo's not hurting anybody. Why should it matter?"

Friday, March 13, 2009

NY Times on Single-Sex Classrooms

The New York Times reports on the blossoming of single-sex classrooms in public schools, particularly in struggling schools in New York City where principals are looking for new ways to improve the learning experience and test results for their students.

As we've discussed previously, single-sex education--albeit being tried for very good and noble intentions--raises some serious concerns about gender stereotyping. This particular article reports on teaching techniques that one teacher reports that he would not try in a coed environment because of his belief that "girls would cry" if faced with his stern remarks. Although the teacher's goals are laudable, his assumptions and the way in which he structures his curriculum appear to collide against Title IX's prohibition against gender stereotyping in schools.

Further, studies on the achievement level of students in single-sex environments versus coed requirements show mixed results at best. This article raises the important point, however, that so-called low achieving students are often the ones who get steered toward single-sex classrooms because teachers hope the environment will help focus the student. Finally, teachers write that students seems more engaged in school and less prone to disciplinary issues when they are in the single-sex environment. Does this make such a set-up Title IX-proof? No, but it does give food for thought as educators continue to struggle with how to encourage students to achieve academically.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Weatherford College to Survey Student Interest in Athletics

We have been following OCR's investigation into a complaint against Weatherford College in Texas that it fails to accommodate the interests and abilities of both sexes in compliance with Title IX. (For prior posts, see here and here.) Weatherford's athletic offerngs include one coed team (rodeo), men's and women's basketball, and men's baseball. The result was that men had nearly double the percentage of athletic opportunities, despite being a minority among the student body.

OCR has recently announced that it is terminating its investigation "based on the college's commitment to take action." According to the Weatherford Democrat,
[T]he college has agreed to develop policies and procedures to ensure appropriate information is collected and reviewed on an annual basis regarding the athletic interests and abilities of all students. The college also reported it will conduct surveys to determine the unmet athletic interests and abilities in intercollegiate athletics of its female students.

Survey results may lead to a plan to implement a team or teams to meet the interests and abilities of female students. If such a plan calls for additional teams, competition must begin by the 2011-12 academic year.
It thus appears that Weatherford will see if it can satisfy prong three (full and effective accommodation of women's interests and abilities) by relying on the controversial Model Survey. To my knowledge, it is the second school to commit to undertaking an interest survey as a measure of compliance. (See also Western Illinois, as reported here.) I predict that the survey's methodology and fundamental premise (surveying those students who have already enrolled, absence of particular sports notwithstanding) will result in the survey absolving both schools of further compliance obligations, severe disproportionality notwithstanding. But I'm happy to be wrong.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Western Washington Has Too Many Women's Sports After Cutting Football

In January, Western Washington University announced its decision to cut its NCAA Division II football program to help reduce the athletic department's deficit. While the university's records apparently show the program breaking even in 2008, university officials estimated that $10 to $12 million dollars would be required to sustain the program going forward, and considered such an investment unrealistic in today's economic climate. It was reported Tuesday that efforts to appeal to the state legislature to save Western football have failed.

The article also reports that Western now plans to reduce the size of the women's track and rowing teams in order to restore a proportionate balance of athletic opportunities between the sexes. The loss of 96 football players brings the percentage of athletic opportunities for men to 36%, which is out of proportion with the percentage of men in the student body (44%). Nor can Western rely on the alternative compliance prongs; since men are now the "underrepresented sex," cutting football likely precludes the university from claiming compliance under prong two (history and continuous practice of program expansion for the underrepresented sex) or prong three (full and effective accommodation of the interests and abilities of the underrepresented sex).

The Athletic Director admits, however, that the cuts to rowing and track will actually benefit those teams, which had been stretched to provide a more-than-comfortable number athletic opportunities so that the university could claim compliance via proportionality. This is an interesting point, as it highlights the common and often overlooked tendency by athletic departments to squeeze opportunties of existing women's team, rather than creating new opportunities in new sports, or expanding the capacity of existing teams in a meaningful way. While the appearance of compliance exists, the result is still discriminatory. Here's a metaphor: If a parent buys six toys for her son, and six for her daughter, what should she do for when another daughter comes along? She could buy six more for the new child, or make each of the older children give her two of theirs. Or, a parent could do what Western and other schools have done: make the daughter break each of her six toys in half to give half to the younger sister. Yeah, each kid has 6 toys. Proportionality achieved. But the daughters' toys are clearly inferior to the son's at that point.

Take away some of the son's toys, and you can justify giving the daughters fewer toys too. Only now there is room to make theirs somewhat higher quality. And thus, Western has created a situation where it can claim women benefit from cuts to men's teams. Notice how even when proportionality is being applied in reverse ("forcing" cuts to women's teams, instead of men's) the usual discourse ensues?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Philly girls finally get championship

This story about girls' basketball in Philly really struck me. In the early 80s, a girls' basketball coach, Lurline Jones, said that girls should have a city championship like the boys who had been playing a city championship since 1938. (The championship was a match-up between the Catholic League and the Public League.) So Jones filed a Title IX lawsuit charging discrimination against the girls who wanted to play their own championship. The archdiocese of Philadelphia decided just to cancel the City Title championships rather than fighting the lawsuit or hosting a championship for the girls.

Let me reiterate--the archdiocese cancelled the boys' championships. But Jones got all the crap.

Even today as she is recognized for being an invaluable advocate for girls' basketball in the city, some still hold her at fault as evidenced by this "praise" from a fellow coach:

"Everybody was upset for a lot of years," said Greco, who had two stints as the head coach of the Central boys' team and recently completed his 11th season as the school's girls' coach. "Everyone pointed the finger at her. But, getting past that, what she did for girls' basketball in Philadelphia was remarkable. She deserves a lot of credit."

Getting past that? As if it's some black mark on her record that she fought for gender equity and came across the rather staunch patriarchy known as the Catholic Church.

Jones retired but this year the city finally reinstated the championship--for boys and girls. Only took 29 years!

Monday, March 09, 2009

Title IX discussion in Hartford

The Connecticut Historical Society is hosting a discussion Thursday night (March 12) entitled "Title IX: On the Court and Off. "
The discussion, which begins at 7pm, is part of the society's She Shoots...She Scores exhibit currently on display (through January of 2010).

New retaliation case

In Washington a former coach has filed a lawsuit against the middle school that fired her. Terra Solkey, who coached girls' basketball asserts that she lost her coaching job when she started to raise some issues over the inequitable treatments of female athletes in her school.

Solkey was also a teacher at the school and contends she was pushed out of this position as well. The Federal Way School District has asked the judge to throw out the lawsuit.

Solkey contends that no action was taken when boys who were athletes became academically ineligible to play. Also that the school's elimination of the gymnastics program was a Title IX violation. She argues that her complaints to the administration resulted in her not being hired as head coach for a second year and a myriad of petty actions to make her life in the classroom (she actually had her classroom taken away!) more difficult.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Donna Lopiano to speak at Western New England College

Donna Lopiano, former head of the Women's Sports Foundation and amazing advocate for Title IX, is coming to Western New England College on April 22 to talk about her work and reflect upon the successes and challenges of Title IX.

For more information about her talk, check out the website for the College's Center for International Sport Business: www.wnec.edu/cisb

Loss of sports at Quinnipiac

Quinnipiac College, it appears, is dropping three varsity sports: men's track, women's volleyball, and men's golf.
Much of the above article focuses on the Connecticut school's volleyball team and their reaction to the news including their disappointment that sportsmanship did not win out over revenue generating abilities. (Too bad there are no men on the volleyball team!)
It seems the women on the team will try to raise the $58,000 in operating costs.
But one first year player said she will be looking for a new school with a more solid program. Unfortunately given the economic situation many schools are facing, that search might be a little more difficult than she imagines.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

NY Times on Girls in Baseball

The New York Times ran a story earlier this week about girls who aspire to play high school baseball. The article points out that even for girls who have the skills and strength to qualify for the boys' team, they often face an even greater obstacle in the assumption, rooted in stereotypes, that baseball is not a girls' sport. The positioning of softball as the "equivalent" girls sport contributes to this belief, which is rejected by female ballplayers like Marti Sementelli, a sophomore pitcher in Burbank CA. She told the NY Time assuming that baseball and softball are the same because they are both played with bats and balls "i[s] like saying Ping-Pong and tennis are the same sport. ”

The numbers of female high school baseball players is low, just over 1000 last year, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations. Girls are either steered into softball or prohibited outright from trying out baseball when a softball team is offered, as is the case in at least one state -- Massachusetts. Yet, associations in Indiana (most recently) and Nebraska have dropped similar bans out of concern for their likely illegality. Title IX requires schools to allow girls try out for a boys team if the sport is not a contact sport and if there is not a girls team in that same sport. In light of this rule, the commissioner of the Indiana State Athletic Association told the Times he was advised that his odds of successfully defending a prohibition on girls in baseball were "zero to 50/50."

Valparaiso to add two sports

Some schools taketh away and some schools giveth.
Pepperdine cuts two sports; Valparaiso adds three sports.
Not a lot of information here. Driven by student interest, the school has decided to add men's and women's golf and women's bowling.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Pepperdine to cut two sports

Pepperdine University in California (not a good time to be a California school!) announced this week that it will eliminate two sports from its varsity line-up: men's track and women's swimming and diving. Track will have its last season this year and swimming/diving, which received outside monies, will compete through the 2009-2010 season.
The sports were eliminated because of--not surprisingly--budget issues. These two in particular were chosen, according to Pepperdine, because they do not compete in the school's primary conference affiliations: West Coast Conference and Mountain Pacific Sports Federation.
Men's track actually had only been competing in distance events since its reinstatement in 2008 (it was cut in 1972) and appears to be comprised only of runners already on the cross country team.