Monday, August 17, 2009

What counts as compliance

Last month Florida Gulf Coast University released the findings from its external investigation of its athletic department. The short version of the FGCU saga is this: The very few female coaches in the department got together and complained about the state of the athletic department, specifically gender equity. All of them suffered some form of retaliation; some left the school entirely; some were suspended or fired. And then a few filed a lawsuit. There were settlements.
For a more detailed recounting of the events head to the Title IX Blog.
Part of the settlement included a mandatory external review of gender equity. Dr. Christine Grant was chosen for this task. A very good choice and one that would ensure that this review process (there had been several before) was legit.
More good news is that her report revealed that things are in good shape at FGCU. Equitable scholarship dollars: check. Equitable opportunities: check. Equitable distribution of resources: pretty good. (There are a few discrepancies that will be easy to work out according to Grant.) And the majority of the coaches in the department state that they believe the department is committed to gender equity.
So what the heck happened at FGCU then? Why would a department so on the up-and-up have to settle lawsuits?
Well the evidence of retaliation was pretty strong. And the parties that executed the retaliation--namely the former athletic director, are no longer in the department. Also no longer in the department are the coaches who complained. This might account for the responses by coaches as to the commitment to gender equity. Also a possible factor is the history of retaliation against coaches who say there may be problems. The smiling and nodding is thus not surprising.
But what is truly absent from the findings--at least as they have been reported--is a discussion of the atmosphere. It's great that female student-athletes are getting their far share. But it still does not seem to be a great place for female coaches. In fact there are only three (head coaches) there. They get paid well. But they probably should because it appears they have to put up with a lot of crap. Including an incredibly homophobic environment. Much of the evidence regarding the retaliation against the various coaches indicated a culture of lesbian-baiting and homophobia.
Unfortunately none of the investigations--internal or external--dealt with this issue. And that is largely because Title IX makes no protection against homophobia. It is a large problem in the fight for equity for women in sports and one that is not going to go away if we only use a gender equity paradigm that is based on Title IX.

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