Comprehensive Examination, Research Paper Example

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Research Paper

Introduction: Title IX, sports studies, and athletics

The purpose of Title IX of the Higher Education Amendments of 1972 is to secure gender equity in all federally funded education programs and activities, by prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex (Rosner, S., & Shropshire, K. L. 2011, p. 616). In the field of sports studies and athletics, Title IX is of seminal importance, inasmuch as it aims to secure gender equity in athletic funding and participation. There is a three-prong test to determine whether an institution meets Title IX stipulations for gender equity in athletics, and as long as an institution satisfies the requirements of any one of the three prongs it is considered Title IX compliant (Carpenter, L. J., & Acosta, R. V. 2005; Simon, 2005).  The first part of the test is concerned with proportionality: if a school selects this prong, it must be able to demonstrate that the gender ratios in its athletic programs are “substantially proportionate” to those of its student body (Simon, 2005, p. 11).  The second and third prong applies in cases wherein the first prong does not obtain, i.e. one sex is underrepresented in a school’s collegiate athletics (Carpenter & Acosta, 2005, p. 77).  The second prong is program expansion: under this prong, a school can secure Title IX compliance by demonstrating that it is creating more programs to serve whichever sex is underrepresented in it athletics programs (p. 11).  The third and final prong offers school still another alternative, sufficiency of current efforts: if the school’s programs “fully and effectively” meet the underrepresented sex’s “interests and abilities”, then it will be considered Title IX compliant (Carpenter & Acosta, 2005, p. 77).

Gender Equity and Privilege: Two Views on Title IX

Today, forty years after the passage of Title IX, the issues it raises are still relevant. Two main positions on the implementation of Title IX are readily delineated: 1) The position that despite forty years of Title IX, further efforts are needed to secure gender equity for women in collegiate athletics; in other words, this position states that there is still too much male privilege in collegiate sports. 2) The second position is that Title IX requirements have privileged women’s sports at the expense of men’s sports; in other words, the requirements of Title IX have harmed men’s sports, either directly or indirectly, effectively replacing male privilege with female privilege (Carpenter & Acosta, 2005; Kuersten, 2003; National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education [NCWGE], 2002). The difference is significant because these two positions are representative of opposite poles: the argument that more needs to be done to increase women’s participation in sports in accordance with Title IX on the one hand, and the argument that Title IX compliance has promoted women’s sports in a way that has been damaging to men’s sports on the other hand (Department of Education, 2003; Simon, 2005; Volkwein-Caplan & Sankaran, 2002).

Position 1: Title IX is beneficial, but male privilege lingers

There can be no question that Title IX has had a positive impact on women’s participation in athletics, at both the high school and college levels. The figures from the NCWGE (2002) are compelling: in 1971, female high school athletes numbered fewer than 295,000, a mere “7 percent of all high school varsity athletes”, while female college athletes numbered fewer than 30,000, and received “only 2 percent of overall athletic budgets” and virtually no athletic scholarships (p. 14).  In high school varsity sports, female athletes’ numbers rose to nearly 2.8 million by 2001, 41.5 percent of the total (p. 15). As the NCWGE observed, the increase is staggering: over 847 percent (p. 15). For female college athletes, the figures are also very encouraging: 150,916 female college athletes by 2001, representing 43% of the total, and a figure that is 403% larger than that of 1971 (p. 15).

These gains have produced other, attendant benefits for female athletes, similar to the benefits of sports for male athletes. For girls and young women, participating in sports is associated with decreased rates of drug use, teenage pregnancy, and depression, and increased grades and graduation rates (Paludi, 2010, p. 36).  And as Andersen and Taylor (2006) explained, participation in sports also helps women to develop positive self-image through “a strong sense of bodily competence” (p. 89). Moreover, as with male athletes, participation in sports often provides female athletes with opportunities to bond with teammates and form friendships (p. 89).

By any measure, these are staggering, tremendous gains for women’s participation in athletics.  However, there are indications that a great deal remains to be done in order to secure gender equity in athletic participation: for example, in 2001 the NCAA Gender Equity Survey found that male athletes accounted for 59% of all varsity athletes, and female athletes only 41% (ctd. in Department of Education, 2003, p. 19).  Athletic scholarships were divided between men and women 57% to 43%, respectively, and budgets for men’s sports and women’s sports 64% to 32%, respectively (p. 19). The Department of Education noted that some of these differences are not discriminatory in nature, e.g. “differences in equipment costs between teams or varying needs for financial assistance”; however, there is still a clear disparity (p. 19).

Other disparities are also very telling: according to the NCWGE (2002), only a minority of NCAA Division 1 colleges, 23%, provide proportionate athletic opportunities for women “within five percentage points of female student enrollment” (p. 16). The NCWGE also reported that for every dollar increase on athletics expenditures in Division I and Division II colleges, the breakdown between men’s sports and women’s sports was 58 cents to 42 cents, respectively (p. 16). Female athletes also receive 36% less in NCAA college athletic scholarships than their male counterparts, and Division I colleges spend significantly more on male athletes than female athletes: $3,786 to $2,983, respectively (p. 16).

A good metric for evaluating equity is leadership: after all, leadership positions entail a great deal of responsibility, accountability, and power. Here the picture is far from encouraging for women, as the evidence reveals not only disparities, but also severe losses for gender equity. As Kuersten (2003) explained, as of 2000 there was a substantial disparity between average salaries for coaches of women’s teams versus men’s teams: $330,000 to $484,900, respectively (p. 75). However, this is only a part of the picture: after all, men can coach women’s teams, and women can coach men’s teams. Unfortunately, the evidence shows a marked trend of decline in the percentage of women’s teams coached by women since the passage of Title IX, from 90% at the time to 47.7% in 1995-1996, to 44% by 2001-2002, and the trend is similar at the high school level (NCWGE, 2002, pp. 16-17). In fact, in 2002 the NCWGE could report that since 2000 alone, “90 percent of the available head coaching positions in women’s athletics have gone to men” (p. 17). At the same time, women’s participation in coaching men’s teams has remained consistent, and consistently low: a mere 2 percent of men’s collegiate teams have coaches who are women (p. 17).

Kennedy (2009) demonstrated that there is, in fact, still a glass ceiling for women coaches in Division 1-A schools: out of 114 schools, only 9 received an ‘A’ grade for gender equity in the period of 2006-2007 (pp. 238-239). The four criteria used were: “percentage of women who are head and assistant coaches [respectively] of men’s and women’s teams [respectively]” (p. 238). The top nine received scores of 135 or higher, with the Central Florida Knights the only ones to score an A+, with a score of 185.5 (p. 238). By contrast, twelve schools were in the “bottom ten”, given that three tied for 103rd position (p. 241). This is indeed compelling evidence that male privilege continues in collegiate athletics, despite decades of Title IX: women hold fewer leadership positions in collegiate sports than do men.

Women’s basketball presents perhaps the most encouraging case of women’s leadership, in that women have consistently held 62.8% of the head coaching jobs (NCWGE, 2002, p. 17). However, even here there is a great need for improvement and equality, inasmuch as women’s basketball coaches make far less than their counterparts for the men’s teams: $91,300 versus $149,700 average salary for a Division 1 head coach, respectively, and $34,000 to $44,000 for assistant coaches, respectively (pp. 17-18). Women are also underrepresented in athletic directorships at the collegiate level: 83.1% of these positions are held by men, and women are more underrepresented at higher levels, e.g. “8.4 percent in Division I versus 25.5 percent in Division III” (p. 18).

Position 2: Title IX Has Privileged Women’s Sports at the Expense of Men’s Sports

For all that there is still a very great deal remaining to achieve gender equity with regard to women’s participation in sports, the argument is made that there is another side of Title IX: the reduction of opportunities for men. As Bank (2011) explained, the rise of Title IX implementation and enforcement in the 1990s precipitated a backlash, led by men’s wrestling: these critics of Title IX claimed that Title IX was responsible for the cutting of funding to men’s wrestling programs and other sports (p. 394). It was this case that the National Wrestling Coaches Association, and others, took to the Supreme Court in 2002: the charge that Title IX was cutting into their funding (p. 394). The Supreme Court chose not to hear the case, and the end result produced nothing more than a memo from the OCR, one that “emphasized the flexibility of the three-prong test” and urged schools not to drop teams in order to maintain Title IX compliant status (p. 394).

There is a continuing current of discontent with Title IX, on the grounds that it has harmed men’s sports by leading universities to cap or cut men’s sports teams. Sander (2011) made the case for men’s collegiate gymnastics teams, which have dwindled to the point that “only 17 NCAA men’s gymnastics programs remain” (Sander, 2011). A major reason appears to be budgetary shortfalls at some universities, such as at U.C. Berkeley in September of 2010, when men’s gymnastics and four other sports teams were cut (Sander, 2011). Critics of Title IX charge that Title IX compliance is at least partly to blame, since universities faced with financial difficulties may resort to cutting or capping men’s teams in order to preserve gender equity, rather than increasing women’s teams (Sander, 2011). Langton (2009) explained that NCAA men’s gymnastics teams numbered 107 at the beginning of the 1980s, and argues that this precipitous decline in the number of teams is the proportionality requirement of Title IX: rather than implement new women’s programs, which is very expensive, universities are simply capping men’s programs (pp. 185-186). An example given by Langton is Michigan State University: the school “has chosen to comply through proportionality and has dropped men’s fencing, lacrosse, and gymnastics to achieve it,” citing budgetary reasons (p. 186).

But why don’t schools facing budgetary shortfalls simply turn to one of the other two prongs of Title IX compliance, program expansion or sufficiency of current efforts? Langton (2009) offered a simple and rather compelling answer: because proportionality is far more quantifiable, and much less easily subject to the vagaries of conflicting interpretations (p. 186). In other words, proportionality is easy to demonstrate, far more so than either of the other two prongs; ergo, it is the default for most institutions (Langton, 2009).

Clearly, the point remains, and it poses a set of valid questions: should schools cut teams or cap opportunities for men in order to preserve Title IX compliance status, and has the need to adhere to Title IX led some schools to do precisely this? In all fairness, men’s sports have experienced significant cuts in funding: in March of 2001, the GAO released its findings on NCAA and NAIA sports, which showed that some thirteen out of twenty-six men’s sports suffered declines from 1981-1999, especially wrestling, which lost 171 teams (Department of Education, 2003, p. 19). By comparison, women’s sports fared better: a mere six out of twenty-five sports suffered declines, and the greatest losses were held by gymnastics, which lost 100 teams (p. 19). As the Department of Education explained, these figures reveal that in all, “men’s teams were discontinued twice as often as women’s teams, with a rate of 386 to 150” (p. 19). There is also evidence that Title IX concerns motivated the cuts in men’s teams in some 54% of Division I schools; by comparison, 58% of schools that cut women’s teams cited the influence of poor student interest (p. 19). More evidence comes from the findings of a consultant to the U.S. Department of Education, which revealed gains for women’s sports from 1982-2001, and losses for men’s sports during the same period: specifically, “women gained 2,046 to 2,384 teams and 51,967 athletic opportunities, while men lost between 1,290 to 1,434 teams and 57,100 to 57,700 participation opportunities” (ctd. in Simon, 2005, p. 13).

But are these statistics the whole story? In fact, some evidence suggests that the relationship between Title IX compliance and cutting of funds for men’s sports teams may not be nearly so explicit and clear as the above facts and figures would lead one to believe. As Bank (2011) explained, there is actually very good evidence that the decline of funding for men’s wrestling, so complained by critics of Title IX, has had absolutely nothing to do with Title IX (p. 394). If Title IX is the culprit, then how to explain the elimination of 55 NCAA men’s wrestling programs in the period from 1984 to 1988, the very same period in which Grove City’s stranglehold on Title IX was in effect? (p. 394). Nor does the evidence support the proposition that Title IX has been responsible for such cuts since, given the fact that in the 12-year period from 1988 to 2000 a similar number of men’s wrestling programs were eliminated as in the period from 1984-1988 (pp. 394-395). In truth, there are a number of factors that influence the decision to eliminate a team, ranging from a decline in interest to the desire to maintain the primacy of such dominant sports as men’s football (p. 395). Thus, even if Title IX concerns do influence some decisions to limit or cut men’s teams, Title IX is far from the only factor, and the evidence strongly suggests that it is not the most important one.

The History of Title IX Implementation: An Uphill Fight Against Male Privilege

The history of Title IX implementation reveals that the gains for gender equity since the passage of Title IX have been hard-fought. As the Feminist Majority Foundation [FMF] (2012) explained, a longstanding problem with Title IX implementation is that the law simply has not been enforced (“Background”). For many years after Title IX’s passage, very little was done to actually enforce it (“Background”). Worse, in Grove City v. Bell (1984), the U.S. Supreme Court dealt a severe blow to Title IX in its ruling that the measure only applied to “those programs directly receiving federal funds”, which excluded athletics (“Background”). It took the concerted efforts of women’s rights groups to reverse the severe harm caused by Grove City v. Bell, by getting Congress to pass the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1987 (“Background”). The Civil Rights Restoration Act implemented Title IX in a far more comprehensive manner, by prohibiting any institution receiving any federal funding from practicing sex-based discrimination, including in athletics (“Background”).

Another landmark for Title IX implementation was Cohen v. Brown University, a suit that originated from that university’s 1991 decision to eliminate women’s teams in the sports of volleyball and gymnastics (Porto, 2003, p. 153). In all, the case generated a total of four rulings, two from a Rhode Island federal district court and two from a Boston appellate court (p. 153). The defendants, Brown University, alleged that they were justified in eliminating these teams due to women having less interest than men in athletics, though they also eliminated two men’s teams (Department of Education, 2003, p. 16; Kuersten, 2003, p. 77). This was not only an astonishing assumption, but also a blatantly inaccurate one, as attested by the fact that the plaintiffs were willing to file suit (Department of Education, 2003, p. 16). The plaintiffs won in 1996 (p. 16).

As Brake (2010) explained, a key part of the reason that the plaintiffs won, despite the fact that Brown University also eliminated two men’s teams, was the disproportionate impact of Brown’s decision on the women’s and men’s teams, respectively: the men’s teams were already heavily funded by donors, while the women’s teams were not (p. 76). Moreover, the cuts themselves were deeply imbalanced: Brown was eliminating $62,000 worth of funding for women’s teams, compared with a mere $16,000 cut from the men’s teams (p. 76). The cuts also had the effect of exacerbating an already-extant imbalance in women’s participation in athletics: in the year the cuts were made, only 36.6 percent of Brown’s varsity athletes were women, compared with 48.2 percent of its student body (p. 76).  Brake (2010) explained that Brown University claimed the decision was for budgetary reasons—and yet, the decision itself was quite arguably a stunning piece of hypocrisy (p. 76). In fact, Brown had absolutely no problem with spending a great deal of money on other sports teams, especially men’s teams: 42% of its nearly $5 million budget was spent on men’s football, basketball, and hockey teams (p. 76). And a year before the cuts, Brown spent $250,000 “to buy out its head football coach’s contract midyear during a losing season” (p. 76). Adding to the irony, and the hypocrisy, is the fact that Brown University is thought to have spent nearly $2 million fighting the case, compared with the $62,000 it cut from the women’s teams (p. 76).

Personal Reflections

Title IX is, by any measure, a commendable achievement. Its implementation has been anything but easy: it has faced battles in court, including a thorough gutting in 1984 and a long, drawn-out lawsuit in the 1990s. It has taken the collaborative efforts of women’s rights groups and female athletes simply to ensure that the law was implemented, in order to secure its promise of equality. It is such a simple and profound concept, the idea that no one should face discrimination in athletics on account of his or her gender, and yet it has taken so long for the vision to be realized even in part. Indeed, the story of Title IX is still unfinished, as there is a great deal left to do in order to secure true gender equity for women participating in athletics: there are still problems with unequal funding and unequal participation.

In light of all of this, it is very difficult for me to credit the arguments made by the critics of Title IX as reasonable. Which is the greater problem, the cutting and capping of men’s opportunities, or the fact that women still face limited opportunities due to male privilege? While I certainly do not agree that men’s opportunities should be diminished, the fact remains that any institution has only a limited budget, and increases in funding and opportunities for men’s sports must be matched with proportionate increases in funding and opportunities for women’s sports. When a university faces a budgetary shortfall and has to cut some teams, they should endeavor to do so in such a way that equal opportunities for men and women will remain. As it stands now there is still no mean degree of inequality between men’s sports and women’s sports, and all of it is one way. True progress entails a commitment to the equal vision of Title IX: equal participation and representation in sports for all.

References

Andersen, M. L., & Taylor, H. F. (2006). Sociology: Understanding a diverse society (4th ed.).

Belmont, CA: Thomson Higher Education.

Bank, B. J. (Ed.). (2011). Gender and higher education. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Brake, D. L. (2010). Getting in the game: Title IX and the women’s sports revolution. New York: New York University Press.  

Carpenter, L. J., & Acosta, R. V. (2005). Title IX. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Department of Education. (2003). Open to all: Title IX at thirty. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office.

Feminist Majority Foundation. (2012). Title IX background and continuing challenges. Feminist Majority Foundation. Retrieved from http://feminist.org/sports/titleIXa.asp

Kennedy, C. (2010). The glass ceiling on the playing fields report card III. Gender Issues, 26(3/4), pp. 238-246. DOI: 10.1007/s12147-009-9082-z

Kuersten, A. K. (2003). Women and the law: Leaders, cases, and documents. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO.

Langton, V. (2009). Stop the bleeding: Title IX and the disappearance of men’s collegiate athletic teams. Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment & Technology Law, 12(1), pp. 183-207 Retrieved from http://www.search.ebscohost.com/

National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education. (2002). Title IX at 30: Report card on gender equity.  Retrieved from http://www.aauw.org/act/laf/library/upload/title9at30.pdf

Paludi, M. A. (Ed.). (2010). Feminism and women’s rights worldwide. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC- CLIO.

Porto, B. L. (2003). A new season: Using Title IX to reform college sports. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group.

Rosner, S., & Shropshire, K. L. (2011). The business of sports (2nd ed.). Sudbury, MA: Jones & Barlett Learning, LLC.

Sander, L. (2011). As men’s gymnastics programs dwindle, backers try to save them. Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from http://www.chronicle.com/

Simon, R. J. (Ed.). (2005). Sporting equality: Title IX thirty years later. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers.

Volkwein-Caplan, K. A. E., & Sankaran, G. (2002). Sexual harassment in sport: Impact, issues, and challenges. Aachen, Germany: Meyer & Meyer Verlag.   

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