Saturday, May 12, 2012

Title IX at 40 Conference Concludes

After three days of engaging discussions and lectures, the Title IX at 40 Conference concluded yesterday. Sponsored by the SHARP Center for Women and Girls at the University of Michigan and the Women’s Sports Foundation, the Conference fostered an interdisciplinary dialogue between scholars, activists, athletes, lawyers, athletic administrators, teachers and students.

Despite the diversity of presenters’ and attendees’ backgrounds, a few themes reappeared during the conference. Perhaps the most prominent was that we have come a long way, but we still have a long way to go in regards to gender equity. 

Another prominent theme was education. Valerie Bonnette, a TitleIX specialist, consistently with other speakers, emphasized the need to “educate, educate, and educate” about Title IX. The call for spreading knowledge about the law derives primarily from the misconceptions, most specifically the myth that Title IX caused/causes cuts in men’s sports. 

Numerous speakers, including Dr.Christine Grant, former women’s athletic director at the University of Iowa, displayed numbers that indicate: participation for men has actually grown. Men’s sports did not get cut because of Title IX, but because of “allocation of resources,” Grant explained. 

Judy Sweet, former NCAA Senior Vice President, confirmed stating that sports get cut “not because of Title IX, but because of institutional priorities.”

The conference addressed a variety of issues related to Title IX including youth sports, injury prevention, employment, men’s experiences, media coverage and diversity. 

Faculty from Penn State contributed to the conference with their research and expertise. Nancy Williams from the Department of Kinesiology gave a talk titled “Sport Involvement, Health Risks, and the Female Athlete Triad.” 

John Cheslock from the Center for the Study of Higher Education addressed financial challenges in athletics. Cheslock said that the “Title IX Blame Game” is based on the assumption that Title IX is the “primary cause of major reductions” in men’s sports. 

Cheslock pointed out the importance of considering other factors which play a role in institutional decisions such as high schools in the area, cost, risks, and international student presence. He also called for a disaggregation by institution type. Cheslock said that commercially successful institutions are “rare species” as most athletic programs are not sustainable. 

The John Curley Center for Sports Journalism was represented by Marie Hardin, Associate Dean of the College of Communications. Hardin shared research conducted by the Curley Center addressing the relationship between media producers, gender and Title IX coverage. 

Hardin explained that the “zero-sum” framing of Title IX is problematic because the legislation is understood as conflict. “When frames trump facts, ideology gains traction,” Hardin said. 

Currently, women make up approximately 10% of sports reporters, sports bloggers and sports information departments. While we need more women in sports departments, increasing the number of women who enter sports journalism is hardly sufficient. 

“Women will go into sports news departments, but they won't be valued until we value women's sports in our society,” Hardin said. 

You can find more information about the conference at the following sites: 

-        - For a list of all speakers, topics and photos click here and visit the conference website.
-        - For a play-by-play, go to the Curley Center’s Twitter feed @CurleyCenter #TitleIXConference
-         - For videos of keynote speakers Laila Ali, Amy Berman, James Delany and Bernice Sandler click here

To find Title IX related information, visit the SHARP Center, the Women’s Sports Foundation, the National Women’s Law Center, and Title IX Blog, among others. 

For updates from the Curley Center, check back to this blog and follow us on Twitter.

--Dunja Antunovic

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