Having fluffed one campus civil rights issue — race-based preferences in admissions — President Bush now faces what I would have thought is a more politically difficult one — “gender-equity” in college athletics, as called for by Title IX. Bush established an advisory commission to consider whether colleges should get some relief from the quota system that the Clinton Department of Education sought to enforce, under which a school’s male-female athlete ratio is expected to be “substantially proportionate” to its male-female enrollment. Such an expectation is silly, at least absent evidence that male and female interest in participating in intercollegiate sports is equal. And the quota approach has resulted in the elimination of many male sports programs, including 400 men’s college wrestling teams.
The Washington Post reports that President Bush’s commission deadlocked on a proposal recommending altering the “proportionality” standard, and voted overwhelmingly not to eliminate that standard altogether. It also voted down a proposal to use “interest surveys” to set the proportionality standard at a given college. Having declined to recommend any real reform, the group is now focusing on such monumental issues as how the bean-counters should treat male “walk-ons” (i.e, non-scholarship students who are able to make a sports team, like Rudy at Notre Dame), and part-time students.
As far as I can tell, my solution never made it to the table. Rather than requiring colleges to prove compliance to federal bureaucrats at all, I believe that colleges should be allowed to run their athletic departments as they see fit, until it is proven that real-live students of one gender who genuinely want to play intercollegiate sports have less of an opportunity, as a group, to do so than similarly situated students of the opposite gender.
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