Title IX politics

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Friday, June 23, marked the 34th anniversary of Title IX. OK, so it's not a bellwether number like 25 or even 35. But it's still worth noting on this particular anniversary, Title IX is a shadow of its former self–a landmark law that, like an athlete going into retirement, has lost a lot of muscle. And I'm not just talking about its power to promote women in sports.

Title IX is the federal law that bars any school taking Uncle Sam's money (to wit, every public school, public university, and just about every private university in the country) from discriminating by gender. Its most visible clout has been in the sports arena. Title IX forced colleges and universities to come close to spending equal money on men's and women's sports programs. And the impact packed the punch of a tsunami.

Forty-four percent of all Olympic athletes were women in the 2004 Athens games–the highest percentage ever! U.S. women's team sports claimed gold medals in soccer, softball, and basketball.

Despite this, the Bush administration has made "changes" to the law that women's rights advocates say weaken its clout in important ways, under the guise of "adjusting" it.

The Save Title IX campaign notes on its website (savetitleix.com) : "Without any notice or public input, the Department of Education recently issued a new Title IX policy under the guise of a "Clarification" that threatens to reverse the decades of progress women and girls have made in sports. Schools can now claim they are providing women and girls with equal opportunities to play sports based only on results from an E-mail survey of female students' interests in sports. ... If for any reason the student does not reply, the school may interpret this as lack of interest. Given the notoriously low response rates to surveys in general and this era of excessive E-mail spam, the department's new policy undermines the law and its intent to provide more opportunities for women and girls."