KU’s Unique Title IX Case

KU Sports is reporting on a fairly uncommon type of Title IX complaint lodged against Kansas University. The complaint, filed in 2009 by a male (Ron Neugent, former KU swimmer), alleges that the University was out of compliance with Title IX because males were underrepresented. To rectify the lack of proportionality, Mr. Neugent would like for KU to add more men’s teams.

Unusual case or not, it demonstrates how schools that are consumed with ensuring participation and population numbers are proportional based on gender miss out on addressing whether both male and female students have enough opportunities to satisfy their interests in sports.

According to the article:

“In this case, KU chose to show it was in compliance with the first option.

“We are doing what we’re supposed to do in the spirit of the law,” said Jim Marchiony, associate athletics director.

Judy Pottorff, corporate counsel with Kansas Athletics, said the change made at KU was a very minor one. Though KU has never received specific direction on what “substantially proportional” meant, Pottorff said the school was told it was compliant in 2007 when its male-female participation in sports differed by 1.8 percent from the enrollment figures.

“It’s something we’ve always done,” she said. “We wanted to tighten it up to get it a little bit closer.”

After the complaint, KU’s sports participation exactly matched the percentages of men and women enrolled at the university. In December, KU had 294 men participating in sports and 283 women, which was almost exactly the same percentages of the 8,846 men and 8,484 women enrolled on the Lawrence campus.

Debbie Van Saun, Kansas Athletics’ senior woman administrator, watches the rosters carefully, and works with coaches to ensure their participation numbers stay proportional to enrollment percentages. While one person dropping out might not be significant, if the percentages get off by 10 people or more, the school will work with coaches to adjust roster sizes for upcoming seasons.”

Solely focusing on the numbers should not be the go-to method to enforce Title IX. Aside from the fact that proportionality ensures that students’ interests are wholly ignored or are second-tier considerations, it inevitably causes discrimination based on gender and cuts spots and/or whole teams.

As one of the article’s commentators, AlBerg, succinctly sums up the issue:

“There are more women in the arts programs but the NCAA doesn’t make them equal it out. I wish there was a little more research done by the NCAA to make the men’s and women’s sports programs proportional to the desire to play by men vs. women. Kind of tragic.”

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