Title IX at 50 – It’s Time For a Change

In 1972 women faced discriminatory admission quotas that limited their opportunities in professional schools like law and medicine. Today those admissions quotas have disappeared thanks to Title IX, but they have been replaced with sports participation quotas that discriminate against boys. The intent of the law has been turned on its head, as it is being used to justify the sort of discrimination Title IX was intended to eliminate when first passed by Congress.
For example, take the case of male athletes at the University of Minnesota (UMN).  
In the fall of 2020, during his first year as a student at UMN, high jumper Yahya Madar and his teammates learned that they would not be allowed to compete on their school’s varsity indoor track and field team because of their gender.
UMN’s administration explained that it was compelled to deny the participation of male indoor track athletes in order to reduce their numbers in proportion to female athletes, and make the school compliant with Title IX’s proportionality test. UMN’s varsity indoor track program would continue, but only for women.
The male track and field athletes were not the only students to receive devastating news in October 2020. The male gymnasts and tennis players were also told that their programs would end after the current season. Alumni from tennis, gymnastics, and track offered funding to supplement the existing millions in endowments that supported the programs. All three of the programs could have continued with the support of alumni donations. Money was not the problem.
It made no difference to the administration that all three of the programs had proud, century old traditions of intercollegiate competition at UMN with strong track records of success. The programs had produced Olympians even as recently as 2020 with gymnast Shane Wiskus and runner Kion Benjamin.
UMN now sponsors varsity teams for women in gymnastics, rowing, soccer, tennis, volleyball, and indoor track, but not for men. The old line, ‘you can’t play because you’re a girl’ has been replaced with the reality of ‘you can’t play because you’re a boy.’ 
All the offers of money and long standing traditions were irrelevant when it came to the numbers game of Title IX compliance. Even though Title IX is an anti discrimination law, the UMN blatantly discriminated against the boys by cutting their teams.    
The language of the Title IX law clearly states that no one may be denied the benefits of participation on the basis of their gender. Evan Ng, one of the gymnasts who lost his program, has taken UMN to court. He charges that he has been denied his constitutional right of equal protection of the law. 
Past court rulings have justified discrimination against males, claiming it accomplished an important government objective. However, the facts on the ground today demonstrate that boys underperform girls in almost every measure of educational achievement. The data reveals a mountain of evidence that male students are falling behind their female counterparts. Males graduate high school in fewer numbers than females, and the gender gap in college attendance favors women by nearly 20%. At every level of higher education women earn more degrees than men. It is unthinkable why any court could find any societal benefit in limiting the educational opportunities found in athletics and deny males the equal protection against discrimination that Title IX mandates. 
Alumni from the three dropped sports teams have formed the Minnesota Athletics Alliance (MAA) to fight for reinstatement. They have received bipartisan support for their efforts from Minnesota State legislators.
Yahya didn’t transfer to another school after his indoor program was cut. He chose to stay, and is fighting for his team so that others from his East African community in Minneapolis, known for producing outstanding track and field athletes, may aspire to compete for the UMN. 
The Minnesota Senate Committee for Higher Education invited Yahya and other MAA leaders to testify at a hearing. He closed his eloquent presentation with a plea for support. His words should be a clarion call for all boys in America. He said, “Please fight for us. I promise we are worth it.”
In the early 1970’s the gender gap in college enrollment was also about 20%, but it was women who were under represented. Today the ratio has flipped in favor of women, but federal policy makers for Title IX compliance and the judges who interpret the rules refuse to  acknowledge that dramatic shift. Change is needed to prevent the ongoing, systemic discrimination against male students. Title IX is now 50 years old, but without policy reform it will remain stuck in the last century, and the plight of male athletes like Yahya Madar and Evan Ng will continue to be ignored.