One View of Title IX and HBCUs: The Human Cost

Thanks to working on the announcement of yesterday’s study on Title IX and historically black colleges and universities, I had the distinct pleasure of getting to know Reggie Torrence. Reggie is an employee of Xerox and living in Washington, D.C. today, but six years ago he had just completed his sophomore year at Howard University while also competing as a wrestler.

But over the course of just one summer, his career as an athlete came to an end when Howard cut wrestling in order to comply with the strict proportionality requirement of Title IX. Last night he shot me a note I wanted to share with everyone:

After falling a point short of a State Title in Michigan, I felt like the wrestling chapter of my life wasn’t yet complete. There were still goals that I wanted to accomplish before I could close the book. My school provided me the perfect institution for development as an individual at an HBCU, while simultaneously pursuing my wresting aspirations.

I walked onto Howard’s wrestling team as a freshman, and was fortunate to earn a spot in the starting line-up. My goal was to qualify for the NCAA Tournament, and become Howard Wrestling’s first All-American (if one of my teammates didn’t beat me to the punch). After the wrestling season ended my sophomore year, I entertained myself with thoughts of the upcoming season, and stayed in shape while working at my internship. While at work over the summer before the start of my junior year, I received a phone call from my coach; he informed me that Howard wouldn’t be continuing the wrestling program due to Title IX.

We all set goals in life and try hard to pursue them. There’s nothing wrong with occasionally falling short of some goals, as lessons can be learned from those experiences as well. But to “have the rug snatched out from underneath you”, is a sting that is hard to overcome. There can be no closure, only a series of questions with “ifs & maybes” that will forever go unanswered. I commend what Title IX strives to do, but feel that its need for revision is hurting some institutions (specifically HBCUs).

Howard has two male dorms and two female dorms that incoming freshman reside at. The two male dorms when combined still house less individuals than either of the female dorms individually. There is a huge disparity in the number of African American women who enter the university as freshman versus the number of men. This gap is even more evident 4 years later at graduation. There are all sorts of reasons for that gap, and even more implications of some of those effects on our race as a whole.

Male or female … I think most African-Americans would agree that the gap is an issue. If Title IX forces schools to adhere to guidelines which state that “the number of Athletic Programs offered to each gender must reflect enrollment proportionality”, it will have an exponential effect at what is already a staggering disparity at HBCUs.

It’s widely known that there are more African-American men in prison than in college. There’s a crisis in our culture, and the mindless enforcement of Title IX is exacerbating the problem.

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