Smith College was well-represented
during a recent open meeting of a governmental commission
examining equality in sports participation.
The meeting, which took place
on November 20 in San Diego, was one in a series held by Secretary
of Education Rod Paige’s Commission on Opportunity in
Athletics. It invited testimony from the public regarding
equal opportunity for males and females to participate in
sports under Title IX of the federal Educational Amendments
Among the sports experts to provide comments were Andrew Zimbalist,
Robert A. Woods Professor of Economics, and Claire Williams
’03, a captain of Smith’s soccer team and an 8-year
track athlete from Portland, Oregon. They joined actor Geena
Davis; Val Ackerman, president of the Women’s National
Basketball Association; Donna Lopiano, president of the Women’s
Sports Foundation; and many other sports spokespersons.
Williams is conducting a special
studies course on Title IX this semester with Chris Shelton,
associate professor in exercise and sports studies, acting
as her adviser. When she noticed the conference scheduled
in San Diego (“the only meeting that was held after
the soccer season,” she says), she booked a ticket and
registered to testify before the commission.
Number 72 on the list, Williams
didn’t expect to be heard, she said, but was moved up
because of absences, and addressed the commission as the second-to-last
speaker of the day, among some 40.
“It was an amazing experience,”
she says. “I definitely came away from the meeting with
a broader understanding of all the issues that surround Title
IX, of all the people affected, and of all the possible solutions.”
While testifying in support of
Title IX, Williams agreed with many suggestions put forth
by Cedric Dempsey, the president of the National Collegiate
Athletic Association (NCAA), including stronger enforcement
of the law’s provisions and more thorough definition
of the law’s parameters.
“The opportunity for women
to play sports at the collegiate level is not yet equal to
that for men,” she told the commission. “Women
are interested in participating in sports, so why not start
supplying the opportunities: opportunities in elementary and
secondary schools and opportunities in college through emerging
Title IX has recently come under
scrutiny in the wake of lawsuits charging that it unfairly
penalizes some men’s sports teams by enforcing a quota
system in which women’s athletic teams must represent
a proportional number of participants to male teams.
While some colleges have eliminated
men’s athletic teams -- mostly wrestling and gymnastics
-- Williams and other Title IX supporters argue that a proportional
quota is not part of the law, which states that equal opportunity
shall be afforded males and females in athletic participation.
Altering Title IX would be a
setback for women’s sports, Williams says. “Changing
the regulatory interpretation of Title IX will surely have
an adverse affect on women’s ability and opportunity
to participate in sports in both high school and college,”
The commission’s final
report, with recommendations to Secretary Paige, will be completed
by January 31, 2003.