Obama strengthens Title IX enforcement

Title IX, a law banning gender discrimination in schools, is being reinterpreted once again after former President George W. Bush and his administration significantly relaxed the enforcement standards in 2005.

Although the law originally did not directly address sports, its greatest impact today is on intercollegiate athletics.

Title IX has three mandates for athletic programs: Opportunities proportionate to student enrollment, expansion of opportunities for the underrepresented sex and accommodation of the interests of the underrepresented sex. The three-prong test demands that schools be in compliance with at least one of the requirements.

Bush's 2005 interpretation made it easier for schools to comply with the requirements. The third prong was given the most leeway; the relaxed requirements allowed the use of online surveys to measure interest and satisfaction. Under the 2005 interpretation, unanswered surveys were counted as disinterest.

President Barack Obama and his administration are reverting the Title IX interpretation to its original standards with the biggest change being again in the third prong. The original standards allow the use of surveys, but predicate that students who fail to respond to surveys must be sought out.

According to Director of Athletics Marilyn Moore, the clarification will not have a notable impact at Geneseo. "We already have a strong history of adding women's sports," she said.

When Geneseo was given an equity review three years ago, the reviewer was so impressed by the college's fulfillment of the standards that she declared it one of the most compliant she had ever seen. Over the past 15 years, four women's sports have been added at the varsity level: equestrian, field hockey, lacrosse and tennis. Geneseo currently offers 11 intercollegiate sports for women.

There is also interest in creating women's crew and hockey varsity teams in the future. Moore emphasized the number of factors taken into consideration when adding a new sport, noting that both interest and potential cost need to be considered before a new program is created.

Though Geneseo will not be directly impacted by the effects of the Obama administration's interpretation of Title IX, Moore was in support of the change. "I'm a strong proponent of counting [interest] the way it should be counted," she said.