WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) has joined a group of her Senate colleagues in calling on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Senator Michael B. Enzi (R-Wyo.) to hold a hearing on the Department of Education's enforcement of Title IX under the "Additional Clarification of Intercollegiate Athletics Policy."
"When the University of Maryland women's basketball team won the NCAA championship last month, the nation - and especially my own home state of Maryland - was gripped by the excitement of their tremendous season. These champion student athletes reminded us of just how important Title IX is in promoting equality in intercollegiate athletics," said Senator Mikulski. "I will continue to fight to make sure Title IX provides women and girls with the opportunities they deserve and is not weakened by any policy."
The text of the letter is below:
Dear Chairman Enzi,
We're writing to request the Committee to hold a hearing on the Department of Education's "Additional Clarification of Intercollegiate Athletics Policy" under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.
For over thirty years, Title IX has opened doors by giving women and girls an equal opportunity to participate in student sports, we're concerned that the Department's proposal could unfairly reduce their opportunities for participation in the future. Under the Department's new guidance, colleges that provide fewer sports opportunities to women can be considered to have accommodated female students and complied with Title IX, based solely on the results of a student survey. If female students do not reply to a survey emailed to them, the Department will assume that they are not interested in additional sports activities. But a survey alone cannot reliably measure students' interest in sports. Many students may not respond to, or even open, email surveys. In fact, in a report to the Senate Appropriations Committee, the Department highlighted the low response rates of surveys and the importance of monitoring by the Office of Civil Rights.
The new guidance also does not require colleges to weigh other factors they have traditionally had to consider, such as coaches' and administrators' opinions, or women's athletic participation at nearby high schools or in recreational leagues, even though these factors are important guides to female students' interest and potential. By contrast, in answering a survey, students who have been denied equal opportunity in sports may express only tentative interest in sports or confidence in their skills. Such surveys may actually do little more than reflect the current denial of equal opportunity, rather than the students' true interest and potential, and such surveys would provide colleges an easy means of evading Title IX's goal of equal opportunity.
Title IX has been an extraordinary success in opening up new worlds of participation in sports by young women and girls, and it would be a serious mistake to roll back that progress. We urge you to schedule a hearing on the Additional Clarification, to ensure that the new guidance does not weaken enforcement of Title IX in athletics.