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New Guidelines Could Soften Strength of Title IX -- March 22, 2005

WASHINGTON, March 22. OVER the past few years, we've seen a number of men's swimming programs axed. Frequently, the chopping has been a direct result of Title IX, the law that requires equal sporting opportunties for men and women.

Wait, we need to get rid of a sport for compliance? Um, just kill men's swimming. Basically, that has been the attitude at several universities. Wrestling, too, has been hammered by the necessity to keep equity between men's and women's athletics.

Well, it looks like Title IX was just weakened. According to new guidelines released by the Department of Education last week, universities can use Internet surveys to gauge the interest in athletics by its student body. If students fail to respond to the survey, which can be sent through e-mail, it can be taken as an indication of non-interest.

With the new guidelines, a university may be less likely to wield its hatchet at men's sports if its Internet research indicates that the student body, particularly women, is lukewarm over adding certain sports. Such a response to a survey would allow a university to claim it has provided adequate opportunities.

In a Tuesday article in USA Today, Neena Chaudhry reflected on the new guidelines.

"They're finding a way to weaken Title IX," said Chaudhry, the senior counsel for the National Women's Law Center. "This allows schools the easy way out."

Other individuals have viewed the new guidelines as a positive development for sports such as men's swimming and wrestling, and others typically sacrificed.

In the USA Today piece, Eric Pearson called the new guidelines "a viable alternative to the gender quota." Pearson is the Executive Director of the College Sports Council, a group that backs sports such as men's swimming and wrestling.