WASHINGTON, D.C., November 9. This arrogant quote was recently brought out in a recent article posted on CampusReportOnline.net, Matthew Hickman, an intern with Accuracy in Academia, takes another look at the James Madison University program cuts due to Title IX compliance.
Editorial by Matthew Hickman: Title IX Tightrope
"We're as mad as hell, and we're not going to take this anymore!" Would you believe these words were uttered by a group of women at the Department of Education (DOE) during a protest involving Title IX regulations of college sports? What if I was to claim that the protest existed to reform Title IX in order to make it less progressive? That is exactly what happened recently at a rally sponsored by the Independent Women's Forum and the College Sports Council (CSC) to support the men's and women's athletic teams of James Madison University (JMU). Indeed, JMU just announced the largest Title IX cut in history, which included the elimination of seven men's and three women's athletic teams. This included the men's track team, swimming team, and wrestling team and both men's and women's archery and gymnastic teams.
The point of contention referenced in Title IX that is forcing JMU to make these difficult decisions is the issue of proportional enrollment. As Jim McCarthy, spokesman for the College Sports Council, explains, "JMU's student body is 61 percent women and 39 percent men, so 61 percent of the athletes have to be women." In fact, McCarthy continues, currently under Title IX "there are 1,200 more women's teams in the NCAA than men. But that's not good enough as Title IX mandates the same number of athletes." After JMU told the student body that the cuts were made in accordance with Title IX, students asked to speak with DOE officials and their request was granted.
Department of Education officials explained that there were other tests that JMU could have passed, which would have allowed the university to maintain its athletic squads. The alternatives to cutbacks to meet proportional enrollment include expanding opportunities for female students or demonstrating the interests and abilities of female students are fully accommodated. Unfortunately, JMU felt they couldn't meet the alternative stipulations, as the last women's team added was in 2002, and there wasn't any immediate interest from students to add additional varsity status squads.
The complaint posited by the students of JMU is simple: If Title IX states that no person, on the basis of sex, should be excluded from any education activity receiving federal financial assistance, then why are male athletes being denied the opportunity to participate in the same activities as women? Stacy Fuller, a representative for the JMU student body, explains, "Madison was backed into a corner by the law, and had no other choice but to cut men's sports." Fuller further blames interpretation of the law and the outdated regulations of the law for reasons of the cuts.
At the rally, deposed male athletes spoke to the situation surrounding JMU and provided the male perspective. They understand the principles of Title IX and the reasons behind the enactment. They understand that at one time the act was necessary and that it worked to level the playing field. What they don't understand is the lack of reform to Title IX after all the progress that has been achieved. Or, why Title IX allows for the discrimination of men when women are no longer the minority. The men and women of JMU believe "legislation should reflect the times, and Title IX no longer does."
Still, there are organizations, the Women's Sports Foundation and the National Women's Law Center among them, which claim JMU had other options to comply with Title IX without cutting teams. They suggest that JMU is using Title IX as a scapegoat after receiving negative attention for reducing athletic teams. Representatives from CSC denounce that as "an outright falsehood." Furthermore, Fuller has asked for different proposals, from critical organizations, providing suggestions to save JMU sports, but her mailbox remains empty.
With a budget of over $20 million, JMU is saving only $500 thousand by cutting sports programs. In a meeting with affected students, Jeff Bourne, the athletic director at JMU, apologized, "It's a $548 thousand issue today, and you don't cause the pain and you don't make this decision for $548 thousand. For me, the real drivers did end up being compliance with the law." The students at JMU feel lost and alone; their backs are against the wall and government officials are refusing to help. In fact, Lamar Daniels, the Title IX consultant that JMU used, recently stated, "There is no constitutional right to play anything. Young people are resilient and they will get over it.", As JMU male and female athletes took a symbolic lap around the Department of Education in support of their sports teams, they can only hope that Title IX reform arrives swiftly.