by Jocelyn Samuels
You may recall that five years ago, right around the last round-number anniversary of Title IX, the Bush Administration launched an all-out attack on Title IX’s athletics policies, convening a commission that was stacked with opponents of Title IX and that was urged to recommend ways to dilute schools’ obligations to provide equal athletics opportunities for their female students. This Administration effort was defeated by the groundswell of opposition that your voices produced, demanding that Title IX be kept strong.
You may also remember that, having learned its lesson about trying to make unpopular policy changes in public, the Administration next tried an under-the-radar approach instead. Without public announcement, and late on a Friday afternoon in March 2005, the Department of Education issued a policy “Clarification” that opened a huge loophole in Title IX compliance standards for schools trying to avoid providing additional sports opportunities for women on their campuses. Once again, your activism has helped to blunt the impact of that Clarification, producing, among other things, an NCAA recommendation to its member schools that they not use the Clarification to measure whether they are providing equal opportunities for men and women.
But now the Administration is at it again.
On Friday of this week, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights will hold a hearing on whether the Clarification has worked to reduce the burdens of Title IX compliance on schools. I will be testifying at that hearing, but I don’t expect that my views will get much support from the Commission. In fact, the Commission is expected to issue a report sometime after the hearing, lauding the new Clarification and lambasting stronger standards for Title IX enforcement. This is because—despite its name—the Civil Rights Commission is stacked with members who aggressively oppose equal opportunity for women and minorities. And it is chaired by none other than Gerald Reynolds, who was the very Department of Education official who spearheaded the efforts to gut Title IX athletics standards in 2002.
Another anniversary, another attack. This is becoming a tiresome pattern – and one that stands to stall or roll back the progress that women have made in sports since Title IX was enacted. We’ll be doing everything we can over the coming months to counter these assaults and to make sure that women continue to enjoy true equality, on the field and in the classroom.