Reflections on Title IX: A Voice from Division III,
By Jo Young Switzer,
Vice President and Dean for Academic Affairs, Manchester College
Too often, media coverage of the debates about Title IX only look
at high profile, highly competitive Division I institutions. And they
typically do so by paying undue attention to a group upset by a cancellation
of a men's team. In doing so, they obscure the quieter revolution
that is occurring at NCAA Division III schools where the positive
influence of Title IX is palpable. These smaller campuses, like my
own institution, Manchester College, tell an important part of the
story, too often ignored.
Campuses where gender equity is healthiest are those where athletic
directors and coaches authentically support Title IX. The
impetus behind the development of Title IX was the expansion of opportunities
for students, and it has achieved that dream. On our campus, support
for gender equity and the overarching goals of Title IX is firm. The
support is not expressed in vague clichés. Instead, coaches
have demonstrated it in their actions. Ten years ago, Manchester College
added two women's teams, but budget freezes made it extremely difficult
to find the start up funds needed for equipment, uniforms, and coaches.
In response, coaches from other sports voluntarily reallocated funds
to meet this need; and when the football coach realized that the budgets
were still $3,000 short, he offered even more. As a result, all of
the teams were still able to compete. No one complained.
Only thirty years after Title IX began, five times more women participate
in college sports than before, and some will become future coaches.
Title IX has already produced many of the women who are now coaches.
Each woman coach of a varsity sport on our campus succeeds in part
because Title IX opened doors for her through her own college athletic
participation. This is true of the majority of women coaches in colleges
today. Continued athletic opportunities for women will allow them
to be actively involved in collegiate competition, interested in athletic
internships, and qualified, in time, for head coaching positions.
Everyone benefits when the best people are coaches, and Title IX ensures
an excellent training ground for those coaches.
Equity between men's and women's sports also means that
coaches will have more mentors. On our campus, men and women coaches
discuss game strategies and practice protocols. One coach can help
another learn to run a good practice session, regardless of whether
it is a men's or a women's sport, or whether it is a male
or a female coach. A good practice session is a good practice session.
Male coaches mentor female coaches and vice versa.
The success of Title IX shows up in many other ways not captured by
the often-quoted proportionality numbers. Title IX itself does not
have a quota system, nor does it require exact proportionality of
money and numbers of sports. One of the most harmful unintended consequences
of Title IX has been the focus only on proportionality because it
is the easiest to measure. Title IX has never been about limiting
participation: it has been primarily about expanding opportunities.
Title IX allows schools to decide what teams they will offer, both
men's and women's. Athletic programs with disproportionate
participation numbers can still comply with Title IX as long as other
measures of equity--progress and interest--are present.
On our campus, like many other campuses, having a football program
makes it very hard to have exactly the same numbers of male and female
athletes. We do, however, ensure that the funding we allocate for
athletics is the same per athlete for all sports--both men's
and women's. We ensure that coaching assignments and pay are
equitable. We ensure that practice times are assigned so that every
player--male or female--has the pleasure of practicing at
5 a.m. when the practice facility is busy from 5 a.m. through 1 a.m.
during the winter months. We are also developing ways to get a more
accurate understanding of student interest in athletic participation.
The belief that Title IX hurts men's sports oversimplifies a
very complex situation. Schools with limited resources cut sports
for many different reasons. Gender equity is just one factor in those
decisions. Media continue to focus on elimination of wrestling at
high-visibility universities even though, nationwide, wrestling numbers
are increasing. In fact, men's participation in college athletics
overall has increased since Title IX began. The bottom line is that
schools can maintain many athletic teams if they are willing to allocate
smaller budgets to the teams. On campuses like ours, where the athletic
leaders and the coaches are willing to allocate resources so that
more students can participate, the system works.
Historically, athletic playing fields have been the proving grounds
for several cultural changes in the U.S. Professional baseball, for
instance, shattered the accepted racial segregation of the period.
Title IX has likewise disrupted the gender norms of our day. Supporting
the letter and spirit of Title IX has made life better at our institutions
for both women and men. One measure of success is that we have more
women and men student athletes than ever before. And they admire and
support each other. Football players cheer for the softball team at
the conference tournament. The women's soccer team cheers on
the men's cross country team.
Title IX is still maturing. Just imagine how many more changes in
men's and women's lives we have yet to witness.