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Analysis Women s groups new briefing papers add little new material to Title IX debate

By Gary Abbott | Dec. 19, 2002, 12 a.m. (ET)

A national teleconference featuring leaders of the women's sports community as well as feminist organizations was held on Thursday, Dec. 19. In addition to serving as the sounding board for a number of prominent opponents to Title IX reform, it also provided an opportunity to give more proof for their position. In this, they have failed. Prior to the teleconference, a number of documents were placed on the internet as supplementary materials to the press discussion. Although the memos were just distributed for the first time, very little of the information has not already been presented in the public forum. The materials are entitled: 1. Current Title IX Policies are Essential to Implement Title IX's Guarantee of Equal Opportunity, by Jocelyn Samuels, Vice President, Education, National Women's Law Center 2. Title IX Commission - Inequities in the Process, by Athena Yiamouyiannis, Executive Director of the National Association for Girls in Sport 3. Proposals Being Considered by the Commission on Opportunities in Athletics Would Further Disadvantage Female Athletes and Dismantle Title IX Protections, by Christine Grant, National Association of Collegiate Women Athletics Administrators 4. Fiscal Responsibility, Not Weakening Civil Rights Law, is Key to Title IX Compliance and Deterring Institutions from Discontinuing Some Men's Sports Teams, by Andrew Zimbalist, Robert A. Wood Professor of Economics, Smith College. 5. Title IX. Frequently asked questions about NCAA statistics, by the NCAA. To read these materials, please visit the following link: Briefing papers link To start, three of the four who wrote these "briefing papers" served as panelists at the Title IX Commission hearings. Many or all of the points presented in their "new" materials were included in their formal testimony or their question and answer sessions before the commission. The person who did not tesify as a panelist, Jocelyn Samuels of the National Women's Law Center, had her position expressed by one of her staff colleagues, Martha Greenberger, in the Atlanta hearing. So, in short, all of these presenters had an opportunity to speak with the Commission. The newest materials were presented by Yiamoyiannis and Grant, basically a spin of their previous positions based upon the work of the Commission. Yiamoyiannis spelled out all the supposed wrong-doings of the Department of Education and the Commission staff in the pursuit of their mission. As she wrote about the Commission in the briefing paper, "when commissions are operated with bias, under the guise of objectivity, they violate the public trust, undermine the public's belief in good government and create the reality and perception of a prejudiced examination of the issue." Some of these statements have been made to the media by various women's organizations, but in this document, they are all summed up ion one place. According to Yiamoyiannis, the composition of the Commission was unfair, the selection of panelists was biased, the Commission staff ignored requests from the Commissioners and the procedures were obstructionist. Once again, the integrity of those involved in the process was challenged, something that has been a strategy since the San Diego hearings. Grant, who claims to be some kind of statistics expert, created some charts and statistics about all of the lost opportunity for women that will occur if the Commission follows through with some of its ideas. According to Grant (without any real support information on how this could be proven), females will lose between 3.5% and 10% of their opportunities to play. She predicts a loss of up to 78,000 women's spots in college and 1.4 million spots in high school. Taken in its entirety, Grant is using that old-fashioned fear strategy, the "sky is falling" and those "poor girls will lose their sports" cries that have not been proven, nor have been accepted by those who have heard them for the last six months. Samuels gives some basic Title IX facts and history information, that have been skewed to her position to protect the current quota. She makes four blanket statements at the end of her diatribe, which she and her peers claim to be true (again with little support). They are: 1. The three-part test does not impose quotas. 2. Men's opportunities have increased, not decreased. 3. Where men's opportunities have been cut, Title IX is not the reason 4. Women are not less interested in sports. The first three claims have been refuted many times and in many ways by those who testified before the Commission. If anything, her assertions do not match up with the complex realities that were proven in the hearings, that Title IX is not the only reason for problems but they are an important factor in some of the unintended consequences. The interest position is a smokescreen, intended to inflame emotions. When interest is discussed using "proven participation" as the basis of discussion, there is no reason for this to be such a divisive topic. There is absolutely nothing new from Zimbalist in these papers. Almost everything presented in his document was in his San Diego statement and the followup questions. His main positions are that lost college teams are caused by financial "waste" and that football can not be excluded from Title IX measurement standards. Time and time again, Zimbalist has been on the record on this before. The Title IX statistics information is again only answering the questions that the women's groups want asked. They only recognize only one of the three GAO studies, the one that allows them to spread the lie that men's opportunities have gained. They target only a few sports for discussion, wrestling, swimming and gymnastics, and try to explain away the loss in opportunity to other factors than Title IX. Although not supposed to be "biased" (to use a term thrown around often in the press conference), these stats could be explained in other ways than chosen by this document. The NCAA under outgoing leader Cedric Dempsey has bought into the positions of the women's organizations, so this kind of analysis is not surprising. If you are looking for a "smoking gun," or new important revelations that would cause the Commission to decide against change from the documents posted today, you will not find it. This entire set of documents, and the discussion on the corresponding conference call, is designed to attack the Bush Administration, the Office of Civil Rights, the Commission staff and the individual Commissioners. The idea is to pressure the Commission, through name-calling and questionable statistics, from having the courage of their convictions. Sorry, at least this person in the Title IX debate, is not convinced that this organized set of propoganda will sway those on the Commission. Also, as one of those Commission panelists who continue to be attacked by these women's sports leaders, I believe that the refusal of these groups to compromise or even have civil discussions on the topic will further isolate them from the majority of the nation. Editor's Note: An additional article, covering the actual press conference, will be also be posted today.