Author: Lizeth Castillo
In June 2005, the research department of the Women’s Sports Foundation released a research study titled “Who’s Playing College Sports? Trends in Participation,” in which the foundation compared Title IX compliance of higher education colleges in the nation-ranking their compliance in terms of letter grades. In this national report card for gender equity, Occidental College ranked among the worst compliance with the law, receiving an F for law cooperation.
The results of the article show that females continue to be underrepresented in the athletic community of colleges nationwide. “We know we need to address this issue,” Director of Athletics Jaime Hoffman said. “While I can’t say our low rating comes as a surprise, I don’t think it fully reflects all the recent steps we have taken and the depth of our commitment to improve women’s sports at Oxy.”
The Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act, most commonly known as Title IX, was passed in June 1972. The law stipulates that no individual shall be excluded from participation in any educational program or activity which receives federal funding. Although the law itself makes no explicit reference to athletics, it has been mostly applied to high-school and college athletics.
Under this statute, in order for athletic departments to comply, they must show cooperation in at least one of the three statute regulations. The school must either: provide substantially proportionate athletic opportunities for both male and female athletes (including a substantially proportionate amount of athletic aid), demonstrate a history (and present) practice of expanding athletic opportunities for the underrepresented sex and/or provide full and effective accommodation of the interests and abilities of the underrepresented sex. Although the last stipulation does not necessarily mean that schools need to provide the same sports for men and women, they are, however, obligated to provide an equal opportunity for females to play in any sport of interest.
Title IX also reaches beyond monetary commitment and seeks to ensure that the quality of athletic programs are equal for both sexes. In addition to the former stipulations of the law, Title IX also allows for substantially proportionate facilities such as coaching, game and practice times, medical and training facilities, equipment and supplies, locker rooms, practice facilities and recruitment of student athletes.
What steps has Oxy taken to ensure substantial equality in the athletics department? “During the years of the WSF study we have progressed in some areas for the betterment of the female athlete experience, while not necessarily increasing participation,” Hoffman said. “Both are important and I, along with the administration, are working closely to improve both.”
In the past three years, two formerly part-time coaching positions have gone full-time-Head Coach of Women’s Basketball and Head Coach of Softball-testifying to the college’s monetary commitment to gender equity. In addition to these improvements, Hoffman has been correlating with Vice President for Administration and Finance Mike Groener, to make changes such as getting women’s golf to start competing in Spring ’09 and women’s lacrosse to start competing in ’10. Hoffman also revealed that by 2010, Oxy will be offering 11 sports for females (while maintaining the 10 sports available for men).
Finally, Hoffman has also hired a recruiting consultant in the hopes of raising student participation in all sports-which has greatly decreased in the past years. Hoffman also stated that a primary goal of these program changes is to increase female opportunity without decreasing opportunity for the male programs on campus.
“This is a long-term institutional commitment, as this is not the kind of situation that can be remedied in a year or two,” Hoffman said. “That’s particularly true in light of the growth of the enrollment of women at Oxy, which keeps increasing the size of the goal for which we are aiming. The quality of experience for all of our student athletes is ultimately my greatest focus in serving as the Director.”
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