Tuesday, January 16, 2007

JMU keeps pleading its case

You have to hand it to the students at James Madison University--they certainly are not the apathetic bunch of young adults most college students are characterized as. Well, at least when it comes to sports.
Since the announcement this fall that JMU would be cutting ten sports team from its roster. JMU carried the most varsity teams of any division I institution and could no longer support them all financially.
Unfortunately Title IX has been the scapegoat for what administrators' continued ignorance of the problem and their fiscal irresponsibility. Men's team bore the brunt of the cuts but women's teams have been eliminated as well. JMU students rallied against Title IX earlier this year and have continued to fight against and publicize the cuts.
Their latest battle was in front of the university's Board of Visitors who were not swayed the by students' pleas. Not surprising given that the board was responsible for making the cuts in the first place. It was unlikely they would turn around and say "Oh, you're right. We were wrong. I am sure we can find several hundred thousand dollars in the budget and save all these sports. What were we thinking?"
But the students, at least according to this editorial, were none too happy with the treatment they received from the BOV whom the editorialist called out of touch.
But in the process of explaining how the BOV was out of touch the editorialist proved he/she was not especially in touch with the facts about Title IX which s/he said was "designed to create opportunity--[but] destroys just as many opportunities as it creates."
First, there is no language in the legislation that calls for the elimination of men's teams. Title IX proponents in fact encourage schools to try to achieve compliance through measures other than cutting teams. But the economic realities of many institutions who have ignored compliance issues for years forces cuts.
Second, Title IX calls for the creation of opportunities for the underrepresented sex--in this case women. When Title IX is referred to as anti-men (which it is not explicitly in the article but has been deemed so in some of the coverage of the JMU cuts) the naysayers fail to understand the historical devaluation of women's sports and recognize the privilege of being able to play sports.
The article refers to the cuts as "the Title IX decision" which again is misleading because the decision was economic, the proportionality of the cuts was influenced by Title IX--but the cuts themselves would have occurred regardless.
And lastly the editorial reports on the strategy chosen by student leader Amy Chapman who tried to save the sports by encouraging the BOV to be the first school "to reject the constrictions set forth by Title IX." So basically she, a female athlete, who probably would not have the opportunity to play sports at all without Title IX, is encouraging school administrators to just ignore the law.
I do feel for the students whose sports have been cut, especially the underclass athletes who must decide whether to stay and not play or transfer, sit out a season, and try to finish their collegiate athletic careers at another institution. But blaming Title IX is misguided. And I blame the university for not stepping up and admitting that they are to blame--not the law.

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