Editorial: Slam-dunk / A judge upholds women's sports at Slippery Rock

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It seems like a case of numbers, numbers everywhere but not a one makes sense. U.S. District Chief Judge Donetta Ambrose decided it was unfair for Slippery Rock University to eliminate three women's and five men's sports. Then the judge ordered the school to reinstate all of the women's teams, but none of the men's.

It's not senseless, though, and here's why.

Slippery Rock had never complied with the federal law, called Title IX, requiring equal athletic opportunities for women. When the president of Slippery Rock, Robert Smith, was trying to figure out which sports to cut to wipe out a $2 million shortfall in university funding, he ignored warnings that the school was already out of compliance with federal regulations.

On top of that, Mr. Smith employed a blatantly discriminatory standard in deciding which teams to drop. One of the factors he chose was team members' grade point average. He made this criterion for women's teams higher than for men's because female students perform better academically. In other words, he decided to make it more difficult for women to retain their teams because women are better students than men.

Sex discrimination lives. Mr. Smith's actions are proof.

In 1972, when Congress adopted Title IX, opponents argued that it was a stupid requirement because women weren't interested in playing, and that was the reason only 30,000 "coeds," as women college students were then called, participated.

Now, with the additional opportunities under Title IX, about 163,000 women participate. And more would, if given the chance, but most Pennsylvania colleges don't comply with the law, according to a study released last year by the Women's Law Project.

Early opponents also said that mandating equal opportunity was unfair because more men than women attended college. Congress responded by requiring that participation show parity with enrollment. That enabled men to continue having more teams when women accounted for only about 43 percent of student bodies.

But now 53 percent of college students are women. That means they should have more sports opportunities than men.

They don't. In Pennsylvania, the Women's Law Project found, they have 43 percent.

Now, some men, including New York Times syndicated columnist John Tierney, argue that colleges should be able to offer more men's sports to lure male students back and get their representation on campus closer to 50 percent.

So when there were more men on campus, they deserved more teams, and now when there are fewer men they still deserve more teams. Sex discrimination lives.

It's time for Slippery Rock and other colleges and universities in Pennsylvania to follow the example of Penn State, which complies with Title IX. And it does all that even with a massive investment in a successful men's football team.



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