>Way back in September, James Madison University announced it was cutting ten sports and (falsely) blamed Title IX. On Friday, a student group made its case against the cuts to the school’s Board of Visitors. More or less, the students were politely told to shove it, and these cuts were going forward. It sounds oddly reminiscent of Bush’s “listening tour”–pretend to take input, but in fact the already-decided plan of action will be implemented regardless.
What makes this battle interesting is the bull-headedness of the university’s leadership. When other schools have sought to make cuts and useed Title IX as a smokescreen, they’ve at least been wise enough to couch it in wishy-washy language that doesn’t use any specifics. JMU’s leadership did otherwise:
On Sept. 29, the school announced it would drop seven men’s teams – archery, cross country, gymnastics, indoor track, outdoor track, swimming and wrestling – as well as three women’s teams – archery, fencing and gymnastics – because the school was not in compliance with Title IX, the 1972 law designed to guarantee equal opportunities for men and women.
JMU President Linwood H. Rose said then and again Friday that the school’s only option to comply with the law was to make sure its offerings were proportional to its enrollment…
First of all, it is ridiculous for anyone to assert that these cuts are solely for the purpose of balancing male/female numbers, since three of the ten affected sports are women’s teams. But also, as I’ve pointed out before, current DOE regulations give institutions the option of using any one of three methods for showing compliance in the area of participation. Proportionality is not required, which student board member Stacy Fuller aknowledged:
Fuller said women’s equestrian and water polo both have interest in becoming varsity sports, which would prevent JMU from meeting the third prong of the law, allowing schools to demonstrate it meets the interest of its student body.
Rose and Damico said JMU also can’t meet the second prong, which says that a school is in compliance if it demonstrates progress in the area of expanding opportunities for women.
Rose said JMU doesn’t have a continuing history of adding opportunities for female athletes, in part because Madison started as a women’s college and had a healthy complement of women’s sports from the beginning.
The first of these two assertions proves the mendacity of the second. If two women’s teams wish to become varsity sports, then it most certainly is possible to add opportunities for female athletes. The truth is that the athletic department decision-makers do not wish to spend any more money on women’s sports, as women don’t play football or men’s basketball. I find it highly unlikely that either of those two programs have been asked to share the sacrifice.
The affected students are vowing a lawsuit. These kinds of actions generally go in favor of the universities; they simply play to “run out the clock” and the students give up once they’re out of school. But if something does come out of this, JMU could get a serious black eye. JMU is a state school and Virginia does have a Freedom of Information Act, and the behind-the-scenes paperwork cannot possibly match the public statements.