PROPORTIONALITY FOR ALL
Last week the Department of Health, Education and Welfare released its final Title IX interpretive guidelines, aimed at eliminating sex discrimination in school sports programs. In issuing the department's 41-page report, HEW Secretary Patricia Harris said, "After reviewing 700 comments and consulting with representatives of colleges and universities, we believe we came up with a sensible, flexible policy. We're not saying 'move over' to football or to any sport. We're saying to discrimination, 'let it end.' "
Where the new guidelines differ from past provisions is that they specifically list how the equivalence of benefits are to be measured, particularly in athletic scholarships. The revised policy directs that if the ratio of men to women athletes in an intercollegiate program is, for example, 7:3, the financial-aid distribution must be proportional.
Charles Neinas, commissioner of the Big Eight, called the move "pragmatic," and Missouri Athletic Director Dave Hart agrees. "We have 430 athletes involved in our program and 149 are women," he says. "We are spending $708,000 on scholarships. Of that amount, the women get $188,971. That leaves us about $61,234 short. If HEW had gone for an equal per capita expenditure none of us could have made it."
Donna Lopiano, University of Texas women's athletic director, welcomed the latest ruling, though she doubts it will affect Texas because it is close to compliance now with a $3.5 million annual budget for men's sports and a $900,000 budget for women, including 46 full and 30 partial scholarships. "Many schools that had been making progress with their women's programs went into a stall when the [old] guidelines were issued a year ago," she said. "I am pleased that something final is out and that it is clear."
However, Don Canham, who directs the athletic program at Michigan, was not pleased. "I can't understand why the academic community across the country is not upset," said Canham, whose men's scholarship budget is $800,000 compared to $200,000 for women. "HEW has gone beyond what the law intended in its interpretation. It is telling us how to spend funds contributed by alumni for scholarship programs."
And while AIAW President Carole Mushier called the new policy workable enough "to permit each institution to design and implement its own nondiscriminatory athletic program," Walter Byers, executive director of the NCAA, said, "It is not only extremely complicated, but it will result in fewer athletic opportunities for both men and women students."
When she released the report, Secretary Harris said, "We would expect that as schools amend their programs, they would do so with sensitivity and with recognition that such changes should result in enhancing, not minimizing, the role of women...in sports programs."
Amen. The idea of proportional spending seems a fair way to deal with the sexual inequity of sports programs and a rational way to nurture the much-needed growth that eventually will offer the most opportunities to the greatest number of athletes.
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