The Dictatorship of Equality
In 1972 Congress prohibited discrimination in America's schools -- that is, discrimination based on gender. This law, Title IX, had a safety clause to prevent preferential treatment to women if there was an imbalance between women and men in some activity.
Unfortunately, the safety clause did not work. Colleges found that in practice they had to balance the number of young men and women in their sports programs numerically. As a result, they had to eliminate entire teams of young sportsmen -- including swimming teams that produced Olympians. They often also had to eliminate "walk-ons" that is, people who were not recruited on scholarship, but decided they wanted to try out for a sport.
Before I go into the details, I will say that my impression is that laws that forbid discrimination become sticks to beat squares into circles by activists who believe that equality of opportunity means equality of result. And while it would seem that such bad logic could be ignored by the colleges, it cannot be.
When Heather Sue Mercer sued the Duke University football team, under Title IX, for dropping her off their roster, she won two million dollars. The Duke president testified that she had been given extra chances to make the team, and the coach said she didn't have the strength to boot long field goals. But no matter, Heather got rich, and Duke learned a lesson. And not just Duke. When a Supreme Court ruling in 1992 made monetary damages available to Title IX plaintiffs, lawsuits alleging discrimination exploded in colleges and universities. As Jessica Gavora says in her book Tilting the Playing Field, "eager trial lawyers and women's groups scoured the country for aggrieved female athletes, and found them -- or manufactured them."
In many of these lawsuits, the complaint was that the percentage of women in sports did not match their percentage in the student body. The percentage of women could be high. I noticed in one case more than 40% of women at a campus were in sports -- but if the percentage of men in sports was higher, that was considered discrimination.
So is it really true that the interest in sports is equal between men and women? A survey was done at California State which showed that 57 percent of men were interested in participating, as opposed to 43 percent of women. But the university had to institute quotas anyway.
The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) became, per a former employee, "populated with zealots who had lost all objectivity. I knew something had changed when they began to refer to complainants as clients".
It should be noted that it is not just the OCR that created the situation. There was blame to go around. There were activist groups, lawyers who wanted to make a buck, and of course the students who felt victimized, or claimed to feel victimized.
Thus men's baseball, volleyball, soccer, cross-country, swimming, gymnastic, and wrestling teams all lost funding. UCLA dropped a swimming team that had produced twenty-two Olympic medalists, Brigham Young cut its top-ten-ranked men's gymnastics team; and the University of Miami eliminated its men's swimming program; which had sent swimmers to every Olympic Game since 1972. According to Robert Carle in "The Strange Career of Title IX", a Chicago wrestling coach named Leo Kocher used data from the 1997 National Collegiate Athletic Association Gender Equity report to show that more than 20,000 male athletes disappeared from the ranks of the NCAA between 1992 and 1997.
But the activists in government were not finished. Women had to feel as comfortable as men on campus, and so Title IX was used to protect them from harassment. One professor, Laura Kipnis, made the mistake of complaining in an article title "Sexual Paranoia Strikes Acadame" in The Chronicle of Higher Education. She said the rules were creating an atmosphere of "sexual paranoia" and female students were being encouraged to regard themselves as such "exquisitely sensitive creatures that an errant classroom remark could impede their education."
Kipnis got hit by a Title IX investigation. Two Northwestern students charged that Kipnis's article created a hostile environment for women on campus. Kipnis was not allowed to have a lawyer at the hearings, but she was allowed to have a colleague. She chose Steven Eisenman, who was head of the faculty senate, but the poor man made the mistake of telling the faculty senate that he believed the investigation was a threat to academic freedom. For this, he too was brought up on charges of violating Title IX.
Kipnis later wrote: "most academics I know -- feminists, progressives, minorities, gays -- live in fear of some classroom incident spiraling into professional disaster."
So to sum up: a law for equality became a club that terrifies college administrators into cutting their sports teams, and terrifies faculty for fear of any misstep that could destroy their careers.
Title IX, per the Robert Carle article, is expensive. He cites the New York Times of March 29, 2016 which reported that colleges were spending millions of dollars to hire law firms, consultants, and bureaucrats to cope with Title IX. Apart from compliance, which can cost the schools half a million dollars a year, they have to be prepared to shell out millions in lawsuits, and if they suspend some young male student unfairly on a charge of sexual harassment, ironically, he can then sue them for more millions.
This crazy merry go round has wasted millions upon millions of to create a climate of fear and to deny young men the opportunity to play college sports.
There is a lesson here. And it does not just apply to higher education.
Companies may not be under the jurisdiction of Title IX, but they also must be fearful that some employee will cry "discrimination" or that a class-action suit will be sprung on them.
There must be better ways to deal with disparities in achievement and participation than devouring ourselves.