Equity in Athletics, Inc. v. Department of Education

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In Equity in Athletics, Inc. v. Department of Education, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 61211 (W.D. Va. 2007), the district court for the Western District of Virginia endorsed the gender quota in the "proportionality test," an informal regulation promulgated under Title IX.

James Madison University (JMU), the seventh largest Division I sports program in the nation, abruptly eliminated 7 more men’s sports teams to reduce their participation further, effective July 1, 2007.

The university dropped men’s archery, cross country, gymnastics, indoor track, outdoor track, swimming, and wrestling. Over 100 college men were suddenly left without their sports team. This was required by the proportionality test adopted under the Carter Administration and expanded under the Clinton Administration. This informal regulation requires colleges to have the same percentage of women on sports teams as the percentage of women enrolled at the school. When a college is forced for budgetary reasons to reduce athletic opportunities, then it must conform to this gender quota. This quota does not recognize that many women at a college are uninterested in sports, and generally a much higher percentage of men are interested in competing in sports than women are.

It was not enough that 50.7% of the JMU sports teams were already women. 61% of JMU’s enrolled students are women. The University felt obliged to cut many men’s teams (and a few small women’s teams) to tilt the female participation level in sports to the same 61% women to 39% men ratio enrolled as students. Nationwide, relatively fewer boys are choosing to go to college, and enrollment is approaching 60% women to 40% men.

The athletes sued, challenging the gender quota on numerous grounds, including lack of statutory basis and unconstitutionality. Any other type of gender quota system at a state university, whether based on race or gender, would likely be invalidated immediately.

On August 21, 2007, Judge Glen E. Conrad rejected all of the athletes’ arguments on their motion requesting reinstatement of their teams, and he even interpreted narrowly the recent conservative Supreme Court decision prohibiting the use of racial preferences in public school admissions. Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1, 127 S. Ct. 2738 (June 28, 2007). Appointed by President George W. Bush on the recommendation of Virginia Senator John Warner, Judge Conrad is being pushed by Warner for promotion to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

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