Despite nine legal challenges, Title IX is here to stay. You’d think that after more than 30 years in existence, compliance with the 1972 law would be a slam dunk at all schools.
Not so. Many higher education institutions are either just squeaking by or missing it by a mile when it comes to providing equal opportunities for women athletes.
“We can argue that women and men do not particularly think alike,” said Carlyle Carter, executive director of the California Community Colleges Commission on Athletics. “Men don’t like taking direction, literally and figuratively. When I came to California, I got a GPS tracking system. [Now] there’s a woman’s voice telling me where to go.”
Although bemused over the gender of his new auto accessory, Carter fully supports women’s equal participation in athletics. He was the first minority to serve as a NCAA Division III conference executive and the only minority commissioner of a NCAA non-HBCU conference, the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. In a session at the National Association of Collegiate Women Athletics Administrators (NACWAA) conference held in Sacramento in October, Carter offered—from a male perspective—his perceptions behind the lack of compliance.
It’s not surprising that a male-dominated organization like the NCAA would not want to be legislated into fairness, said Carter. After all, males have continuously believed that the world is flat, it’s okay to enslave others, women aren’t smart enough to vote or strong enough to run a marathon. They’ve also believed that the only valid union is between one of them and a woman.
Even word associations are different between the sexes. To women, ERA is the Equal Rights Amendment. To men, it means Earned Run Average. Women see equity as being treated equally. Males see it as money to buy a bass boat.
Over time, women’s beliefs have been altered or flatly dismissed. Our religious leaders remain silent when they talk about assassination, but not about what consenting adults do in the privacy of their own homes.
Carter got his start advocating for fairness early on. His parents ran up against societal norms when they got married. His father was a German immigrant, his mother was Native American. “We can view the world with a monocle or by both eyes or as a wide screen,” he said. And how you view the world will ultimately impact your behavior in it.
He shared some lessons he’s learned along the way.
• Times change faster than people do.
Technical advances change the world, but social evolution takes longer. We still live in a patriarchal society. In many in-stances the birth of a male child is celebrated more than the birth of a female. “Males grow up with the idea of entitlement,” said Carter, “and changing that is hard.” But unless you’ve experienced the indignity of exclusion, you can’t appreciate the value of inclusion.
Quoting economist Andrew Zimbalist, a professor at Smith College MA who analyzes economic trends and issues in Ameri-can sports, Carter noted: “Together with the lax enforcement of Title IX by President Reagan and the first President Bush, stagnation of women has occurred.” Under the Clinton administration, enforcement improved, raising the compliance rate from 31% to 44% in Division 1.
Since its inception, Title IX has weathered nine legal challenges and it has always won. It’s a Civil Rights amendment and it is here to stay, Carter said.
In the past, women athletes have stood up for equity by either suing or filing civil rights complaints. But under President Bush, the OCR has not investigated one single complaint. So women are left at the mercy of politicians. “We must be willing to stand for something,” Carter warned. “If we don’t, we’ll likely sit still for just about anything.”
Speaking out comes with a risk. If we speak out, we’re labeled as feminists or lesbians. Vocal coaches are dismissed with the comment, “Oh, that’s just Coach being coach.” We hear males refer to women’s teams as “girls teams.” That would be acceptable if they would refer to their own teams as “boys teams,” but they don’t. “It’s important that individuals are seen as people regardless of what side of their shirt the buttons are on,” he said.
Carter once corrected a woman who referred to a group of female athletes as a “girls team.” She apologized once she real-ized the implications. Some coaches refer to their athletes endearingly as “our girls.” “That’s not right either,” said Carter.
• Policy vs. practice
“As an administrator for 20 years, I rely on policy to maintain order,” said Carter. “My job is to interpret and enforce policy. As long as it’s on the books, that’s what I’ll follow.”
When policy is ignored, problems pop up. “That’s how we’ve always done it” is an excuse. All organizations and conferences say that “diversity and inclusion are important.”
But our practices don’t match our policies. Looking for the lowest common denominator, we gravitate to our values. We’ve fallen short in holding our institutions accountable.
Called a “naïve idealist,” Carter was asked the question, “Why don’t you see ads on the stadium during the Olympics?” He responded, “We want to focus on our athletes. But the truth is, we’ve already sold ads in the stadiums.”
He told the story of one coach who made public statements against Title IX. While hosting a summer camp, the coach had the kids write letters against it. “I wrote a letter to a newspaper and the headline was ‘Title IX deserves ap-plause, not lawsuits,’” he said. Reasonable people should applaud, not challenge it, but it’s difficult when “addition by subtraction” occurs as men’s teams are cut for women’s teams.
Although we’ve come a long way, there’s still much to be accomplished. “I marvel at how much work compliance has done,” said Carter. But there is still lots of work to do to help people understand it.
What will really motivate compliance? The first step is to address the excuses. “We’ll never comply because of football.” “We have 60% males, we can’t comply.” “In Division III, we can’t redshirt.”
Believing that the student comes first, coaches took the redshirting issue to the NCAA in 1999. Today there’s a policy and the practice matches it.
In a meeting of college presidents, Carter made the outrageous suggestion to limit post-season competition to those teams complying with Title IX. Their response was revealing. “It became very quiet in the room,” he recalled. “There was no sound. The air got sucked out of the room. I knew then there were problems, even at that level.” If the presidents don’t support Title IX, how can we expect support at the coach or athletic director level?
To his current job as commissioner, he brings the same values that guided him back in Minnesota. The difference is that now he reports to the policymakers. He recently attended a meeting in San Francisco to vote on legislation that would require schools to comply with Title IX in order to be considered members in good standing. Admitting to both nervousness and excitement, Carter knew it was the right thing to do. “I think this is the time to throw a pebble into the pond and see where the ripples go,” he said.
Leaders said, “We’re supposed to comply already, right?” But they claim his suggestion was premature. “Thirty-four years is premature?” Carter asked rhetorically. “I’m giving them until 2009 to get it done.”
Policy can be your friend, he believes. Everyone signs the EAD saying that they comply with gender equity policies when they know they don’t. For example, there are the slush funds for male athletes to use when they’re on the road. Or one school closed a historic gym to put up a library after the coach complained about the substandard facilities his female team had to play in. When confronted about it, he passed the buck, saying he reported to a female administrator and the gym had been built way before him.
“I’m an advocate for equality,” said Carter. Not just gender equality, but people equity. I’ve seen what money can do.” He noted that when he was at Minnesota in 1997, the athletic department got $485,000 as seed money to start a women’s ice hockey team. Now more than 200 women get to play who wouldn’t have had the opportunity before.
Carter offered some suggestions for those who want to motivate compliance on their own campus. “I’ve never been an ‘ism’ person,” he said. “If you’re consistent, fair and objective in your approach, you can’t be labeled as a one-issue person.”
Do your homework and use the policy. Base your decisions and stance on the policy. Anticipate opponents’ objections. Treat your opponents as opponents and know their strengths and weaknesses. Above all, he advised, be analytical, not emotional.
Contact Carter at:
916.444.1600 or firstname.lastname@example.org