Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Women's Crew and Title IX

The women's crew team at the University of Cincinnati is bringing suit under Title IX (and the equal protection clause) against the university for failure to provide adequate funding. This is going to be a fascinating case to watch. Title IX does not mandate that equal funding--dollar for dollar--go to men's and women's team--it mandates equity. The crew team notes that they had been promised a boathouse to be completed by this year and it never happened. University officials claim the original estimate of $3million doubled to $6million and made it less feasible. Yet the baseball stadium is a brand new 11 million dollar complex and the football stadium also underwent substantial renovations. And, it should be noted, that in NCAA re-accreditation reviews of gender equity which look for the completion of proposed action items,"it was too expensive" is not an acceptable excuse for failure to complete a project. Additionally, there is a million dollar differential between men's and women's scholarships. (Guess who's a million ahead?)
The team's lawyer has stated that the university treats women's crew "like orphans." It's an interesting comparison. The team was added in 2000 to meet Title IX participation compliance. But apparently has received very little support since.
This is actually not that surprising. Athletic departments like adding women's crew because it's a quick fix to compliance problems that result from the super-sized football squads universities carry. Because crew carries larger numbers than any other women's sport, adding it reduces the disparity drastically and immediately. But it is not a quick fix if you don't provide them adequate facilities and funding. The University of Cincinnati women's crew team has finally called the bluff. Athletic departments can't just use women's crew to fix the numbers and then leave them to pee in a port-o-potties and without a (promised) boathouse. Success in the lawsuit will hopefully strengthen Title IX and women's athletics. In a year when the Department of Education compromised the commitment to equity by altering prong 3 compliance regulations, we certainly need a case to swing our way.

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