President Bush’s Commission on Opportunity in Athletics released its report on Title IX yesterday to the Department of Education. Making an impassioned defense of Title IX, two of the Commissioners, Julie Foudy and Donna de Varona, released a Minority Report that challenges the process, findings, recommendations, and conclusions of the Commission’s Majority Report.
The Minority Report was necessary, Foudy and de Varona wrote, because they believe that “many of the recommendations made by the majority would seriously weaken Title IX’s protections and substantially reduce the opportunities to which women and girls are entitled under current law.” In addition, they wrote, “only one of the proposals [of the 24 put forth by the Commission’s Majority Report] would address the budgetary causes underlying the discontinuation of some men’s teams.”
The Minority Report specifically criticized recommendations in the Majority Report that would allow schools to not count certain playing athletes in the calculation of how many sports opportunities men and women receive, as well as recommendations that would allow schools to give 47 percent of their participation opportunities to women regardless of how many women were in their undergraduate population. The Minority Report also faults the Majority for encouraging the use of “interest surveys” which would require women to prove they were interested in sports before being given the opportunity to play. As the Minority Report said, “interest and ability rarely develop in a vacuum; they evolve as a function of opportunity and experience.”
Foudy and de Varona released their report at a press conference yesterday in Washington, DC, joined by women athletes as well as Democratic Senators Tom Daschle (SD), Edward Kennedy (MA), and Patty Murray (WA). “Not all girls and boys will be Olympic champions,” said Murray, “but all of them should have the chance to work together, do their best, and be proud of their abilities.”
In a surprise announcement yesterday, Secretary of Education Ronald Paige, who refused to include the Minority Report in the official Majority Report, stated that he would only act on those recommendations in the Majority Report that received unanimous approval. However, as the Minority Report notes, some of the proposals that passed unanimously were not fully discussed, and upon further review, could have significant detrimental effects on participation opportunities for women and girls. For example, one recommendation suggests that the Department of Education consider on its own other ways of showing Title IX compliance. This enormous loophole could be used to introduce all of the recommendations that the Secretary claims he will not consider.