Smith professor speaks on Title IX
Published: Thursday, December 4, 2008
Updated: Tuesday, May 31, 2011 17:05
On Nov. 19, Smith professor and acclaimed sports economist Andrew Zimbalist presented a talk in Neilson Library, "Reflections on Title IX," which focused on the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act. Introduced by Lynn Oberbillig, Zimbalist spoke to a packed Neilson Browsing Room on the history of the law, its original and evolved goals and its efficacy through different presidential administrations."I'm glad to have this opportunity to speak at Smith College on Title IX, for this is the birthplace of women's basketball," Zimbalist said. Since the law focuses on equality, specifically gender equality, Zimbalist held up Title IX as a sign of the "kind of society we want to build."
Title IX, enacted in June 1972, prohibits gender discrimination in "any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance." The "three-prong test" designed to oversee an institution's compliance with this law, issued by the Carter Administration, only requires a recipient of federal funding to comply with one of three stated "prongs." Zimbalist spoke on the controversy that has risen from this interpretation.
Zimbalist reviewed statistics concerning female participation in athletics during various presidential administrations. During Jimmy Carter's presidency, the number of female collegiate athletes increased by 9 percent. It also grew by 2 percent during the Reagan administration and by 10 percent during Clinton's. Under the Bush administration, however, female participation in college sports has stagnated. According to Zimbalist, during Bush's time in office, athletic funding for women has dropped from 37 percent to 34 percent of funds.
Under Bush, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) stated that compliance with Title IX required only "accommodating the athletics interests and abilities of its students who are under-represented in its current varsity athletics program offerings," despite possible "under-representation of one sex in the intercollegiate athletics program." These institutions could test "interest" by survey or questionnaire. However, there was no oversight on how the surveys were administered. Throughout the Bush Administration, over 400 complaints on Title IX infractions have been brought forward, but only one has ever been brought up by the OCR. According to Bush, Title IX is ruining men's athletics by forcing schools to rechannel funding into women's sports.
The main argument against Title IX springs from the claim that the sexes have different athletic interests. Zimbalist and other defenders of Title IX believe, however, that "opportunity drives interest" - with more attention to opportunity, statistically, more women will participate in athletics.
The evening also included a question-and-answer session, as well as a book-signing by Zimbalist in which he signed copies of his book on Title IX, "Equal Play: Title IX and Social Change.