A controversial proposal that would allow colleges and universities to limit women's athletic scholarships without regard to enrollment is among the recommendations a national commission will address today at a conference in Washington.
The 15-member panel, co-chaired by Stanford Athletic Director Ted Leland and former WNBA player Cynthia Cooper, has studied reform of Title IX, the 30-year federal law that requires gender equity in college athletics.
The recommendations being considered by the panel are aimed at preserving the intent of Title IX while addressing concerns that its enforcement enhances female athletic opportunities at the expense of men.
Final discussions will take place today and Thursday before a report is given to U.S. Education Secretary Rod Paige on Feb. 28. Paige will then decide which, if any, proposals to adopt.
Schools have complied with Title IX by ensuring that the percentage of male and female athletes is about equal to the ratio of men and women in their student bodies.
The new proposal would allow schools to devote as little as 43% of their athletic scholarships to women, and still comply with the law, regardless of the percentage of females enrolled at the school. Women account for 55% of the students enrolled in the nation's four-year colleges.
Women's sports advocates have spoken out against the proposal. Jocelyn Samuels, a vice president of the National Women's Law Center, said last week that such a change "would violate fundamental notions of civil rights law." Judith Sweet, an NCAA vice president, said tweaking the proportionality prong of Title IX could result in a sharp reduction of college women athletes.
Representatives of men's sports whose scholarships or programs have been reduced because of Title IX say change is necessary.
The proposals are the first indication of the Bush administration's plans for changing Title IX, which is credited for increasing female participation in college and high school sports.