Why Campus Prejudice Favors Women

Title IX, passed in 1972, seems like a simple enough federal civil rights law. It prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in higher education at colleges and universities that accept federal financial assistance—which almost all schools do to some extent. Yet its initial vagueness, combined with the inevitable mission creep, has caused it to create systematic inequality.

In a recent American Enterprise Institute article, Mark Perry, professor of economics and finance at the University of Michigan, wonders if 2019 will be the year that higher education finally stops discriminating against male students.

Because a proposed amendment to exempt athletics departments from Title IX was rejected, Perry says, Title IX was widely misunderstood as a sports-equity law, though the original statute made no mention of sports. Vartan Gregorian, then president of Brown University, put the matter plainly in the mid-1990s: though Brown’s athletic program was designed without regard to gender, it was nonetheless found to not be in compliance with Title IX. Why? Because the gender ratio did not reflect the entire undergrad student body. It was precisely such reasoning that led many universities to cut male sports programs without achieving a comparable growth in women’s sports.

As Gregorian put it: “Now, by judicial fiat, women’s water polo, skiing, fencing and gymnastics teams have risen past all other priorities including undergraduate scholarship, faculty salaries, and libraries. The salaries and benefits for four coaches, the wages for several assistant coaches, the money for uniforms, travel, per diem and other costs required [by a district court decision] … will have to come from somewhere. Our resources cannot support ever-increasing numbers of sports.” Gregorian went on to explain in detail the double standards and “micromanagement” [his term] imposed by the district court, which had rejected the Title IX compliance plan filed by Brown University.

In 1997 Brown University took its case to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that its teams reflected the ratio of potential varsity athletes. Here we see the same old problem – the demand for equal opportunity gets transformed into a demand for equality of outcomes. Brown argued that the lower court’s ruling turned Title IX into an affirmative action program, requiring gender-specific remedial action, although this was expressly prohibited by Title IX. Furthermore, the lower court’s interpretation of Title IX required Brown to treat “its male and female athletes differently in order to meet gender-based numerical quotas.” But the Supreme Court denied Brown’s appeal, and the university settled. All in the name of prohibiting gender-based discrimination – in disregard of the actual interest expressed by women students in varsity sports.

Testifying before the House Subcommittee on Postsecondary Education, Gregorian complained that Title IX’s intent “is so unclear that anybody can interpret it any way that they want,” despite the fact, he said, that “I cannot tell these women, ‘You better participate in athletics otherwise you cause problems.’ It’s a Catch-22. If you create a team and don’t have participation you’re held accountable. If you don’t have the team, you’re held accountable on the opportunity.”

Abstract equality, not reality, in other words, is what counted – just as with the diversity craze today, in blatant disregard of the available applicant pool, leading to an unseemly competition for those with the precious requisite identity.

And yet the pursuit of equality ceases to be a concern when it is men who are underrepresented. In the year after Title IX was instituted, as Mark Perry explains, women went from being 43% of college students to a majority, while for nearly forty years now men have remained underrepresented in higher education, at all levels from associate’s degrees to doctoral degrees. Despite this decades-old reality, Perry points out; higher ed persists in acting as if “women still need attention, resources, scholarships, funding, fellowships, initiatives, clubs, camps, commissions, study spaces, conferences, and awards that aren’t available to men.”

But Perry is doing something about this inequality, by filing complaints against schools that engage in discrimination against men, in defiance of Title IX. In February 2019, he filed a landmark Title IX complaint against Cornell University, citing 20 examples of Cornell’s violation of Title IX’s prohibition of sex discrimination, ranging from employment/hiring practices to all kinds of special centers and programs for women-only across numerous academic fields.

He got – to take just one example of his successes — his alma mater, the University of Minnesota, to stop restricting scholarships to “women-identified” students only. Perry sees legal challenges as increasing – hence the title of his article – though lawsuits aren’t even necessary: filing a Title IX complaint, as he has done, has caused a number of schools to admit that they have been discriminating against men. Complaints bring results – which is no doubt why campus feminists continue to insist on women’s endangered and secondary status on campus, despite all evidence to the contrary.

As Perry points out, until someone files complaints, universities will continue to discriminate in favor of minorities, even when those minorities are the majority—as is the case with women. Of course, “minority” is now a political category – as demonstrated by the imposition of quotas on Asian students (to restrict what would be their overrepresentation in academe due to excellent academic qualifications). Perry is continuing with his battle – targeting also faculty awards that are restricted to women only.

He says it’s pretty easy to file Title IX complaints: since they are not lawsuits, the issue of “standing” does not arise, and he urges others to do so as well.

Daphne Patai

Daphne Patai

Daphne Patai is professor emeritus in the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She is the author of, "What Price Utopia? Essays on Ideological Policing, Feminism, and Academic Affairs," among other books,

3 thoughts on “Why Campus Prejudice Favors Women

  1. “He says it’s pretty easy to file Title IX complaints: since they are not lawsuits, the issue of “standing” does not arise, and he urges others to do so as well.”

    But he also knows that without the credible threat of a lawsuit to back it up, colleges will deny the complaint while encouraging retaliation both officially and through assaults by “non-students”.

  2. Might this be a good opportunity to open a discussion on the usefulness of all of these school-run athletic programs. Do school really benefit from, say, a fencing or swimming team? Let students themselves organize such teams. Eliminating football and basketball would end all sorts of corruption. If the University of Alabama insists on a football team, let them sell it as a franchise and collect a fee.

  3. The ultimate irony is that Title IX requires parity in athletics but not enrollment.

    Hence a college can be found in violation for not having 60% of it’s athletes being female because 60% of it’s students are female, but not for having 60% of it’s students being female in the first place. No one has ever been able to explain to me why parity is required in one context but not the other…

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