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Thursday, June 27, 2002

Flying Under Radar

With the combination of my lack of quality of internet access and my general desire to not draw much attention to myself, I've managed to stay pretty quiet since the semester ended. I really don't mind - it's given me time to apply for jobs, do some reading, spend some time with family, and relax. Two news stories this week, however, have caught my interest...

Title IX: This week marks the 30th anniversary of Title IX, the landmark legislation that said that any institution receiving federal funds cannot discriminate on the basis of gender. While college athletics may not have been the intended target of the new law, athletics is certainly where Title IX's impact has been most public. With the help of Title IX, opportunities for women to participate in collegiate sports has grown immensely. While that is undoubtebly good, many schools try to comply with Title IX through what is known as proportionality - a standard that says the percentages of a school's male and female athletes should equal the school's percentages of male and female students. While adding women's sports has brought many schools closer to proportionality, some schools have found that complying with Title IX can be done by dropping men's sports. Wrestling and men's gymnastics has been particularly hurt, some claim, by Title IX.

When the University of Northern Iowa faced major budget cuts in its athletic program, the decision was made to save money by dropping men's and women's tennis and swimming. Less than two months later, the university was faced with a lawsuit that it did not believe it could win - a lawsuit claiming the women's sports should be reinstated in order to comply with Title IX. With 60% of the university's students being female, but only 40% of its athletes being female, the university immediately reinstated only the women's tennis and swimming teams. The men were told they had no legal grounds on which to ask for reinstatement.

Hmmm...while I won't deny that the University of Northern Iowa has a way to go to meet the proportionality standard of Title IX, it seems strange that the university's cuts were made in a way that affected both genders equally, but yet the decision to reinstate the women's sports were made entirely on the basis of gender. Should we expect equality in such a situation? Here's something else to think about - what if proportionality also applied to race? For example, what if a school with a 95% white student body was required to have 95% of its athletes be white? To what else can we apply the proportionality theory? When does it go too far?

The Pledge of Allegiance: The big news of the moment seems to be the decision by a California court to declare the Pledge of Allegiance unconstitutional because the words "under God" violate our right to separation of church and state. While I'm not sure what inspired the government to add "under God" to the pledge (it was added during the Eisenhower presidency), I've been wondering how people would react if the words were removed or changed. What if it was "under Buddha" or "under Allah" instead of "under God"? (Yes, I know God is considerably more generic than the other words, but many agree it implies a Christian God.) Here's my favorite - what if the pledge was simply changed to say "under Gods"? This could imply the tolerance towards multiple religions, or it could even imply religions with multiple gods. Would that be better?

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