Inside Higher Ed Doubts the Students

Elizabeth Redden of Insider Higher Education writes that, “criticisms specific to their university — including a lack of student input in the decision — crept into some of their comments.” Those views didn’t creep anywhere, they were front and center. The whole point of the rally was to ask the Department to strengthen interest surveys — precisely because it is the most direct way to engage student input in Title IX compliance. Every student signed a letter to the Secretary of Education stating, in part, “Men and women athletes both deserve the chance to voice an interest in sports participation – which is why the survey should be afforded to each and every student. That simple step will allow students themselves to at long last have the central role in determining athletic opportunity. “

They were supported at the rally by people like coach Wade Hughes, whose wrestling team was eliminated by Howard University to comply with proportionality. Before coaching at Howard, Hughes was a varsity wrestler himself at George Washington — but that team was also a casualty of Title IX.

Although Hughes wasn’t quoted, Redden did find space for an anonymous source (did they meet in the DoEd garage?) who said that the school was under financial pressure, not simply Title IX. Redden thus sets up a binary choice — either it’s Title IX or it’s budget — that is a plainly false premise. Schools with budgets large and small are all still bound by proportionality — which is why they all have roster caps on men’s teams and why so many eliminate men’s teams altogether. Also puzzling is why Inside Higher Ed would grant anonymity like that in the first place. Another student, Jennifer Chapman, was quoted by name in the piece saying much the same thing — and has apparently avoided retribution. Indeed, we sent her an email this morning thanking her for participating and praising her fortitude.

(Ironically, there is a strong story yet to be written about the actual backlash that is experienced by anyone in academia, and especially women, who dare challenge the Title IX status quo. It might start with Title IX commission co-chair Cynthia Cooper who was publicly ridiculed by WSF for recommending reforms and, since those hearings, has spoken in the press not once. Debbie Yow at Maryland had much the same experience, as have countless coaches.)

And although Redden cites JMU’s consultant to support the gotta-be-the-budget assertion, that consultant said this to the New York Times on October 7 when asked about his Inside Higher Ed quote: “I went too far and maybe overstated my case. I can’t say what was in their minds.” Is Redden unaware of this?

Donna Lopiano’s quote that our group is “taking advantage” of student-athletes would be laughable if it weren’t so patronizing. Her entire organization, after all, is premised on using young women athletes for fundraising and encouraging them to sue their own schools. But the idea that JMU students are dupes is an all-too-typical smear from the pro-quota crowd. If you believe Lopiano, schools like JMU and Rutgers and Marquette and many others are part of a nefarious plot to “devalue” women as a ruse for ulterior athletic purposes. You also have to accept that the students, parents, coaches and alumni who want reforms aren’t simply wrong, they are being manipulated. Well, WSF may have had control of Title IX enforcement for some time, but they don’t have a monopoly on the truth and the voices calling for change are speaking out of conscience and they deserve some basic respect.

Inside Higher Ed deserves credit for coming to the rally and covering the growing movement for Title IX reform. There are certainly lots of angles to cover and I hope that IHE will be in the lead of that reporting. Seems to me that when young men and women, with nothing more than the power of their voices, take on the academic establishment and hugely-funded interest groups, it’s hard not to root for them. And if anyone is skeptical about their intelligence or reasoning — Kyle Johnson, come to a white courtesy phone — try listening a little harder. Those athletes have only begun to speak out.

Jim McCarthy College Sports Council

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