Community college leaders would be hard pressed to find a federal statute that has had such a tremendous impact, yet is as widely misunderstood—even reviled—as Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Simply put, the law states that any educa- tional program or activity receiving federal funding cannot discriminate on the basis of
gender. While Title IX is most often associated with high
school and college athletics, having paved the way for
millions of women to participate in competitive sports, it
also prohibits discriminatory practices in academics and all
other aspects of education. This includes ensuring a campus
environment that is free from sexual harassment or assault.
“I don’t think women would be anywhere near where
they are today without Title IX,” says Valerie McMurtrie
Bonnette, author of many Title IX guidance documents
for the U.S. Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights
and founder of the Title IX consulting firm Good Sports
Inc. “Title IX’s impact has been monumental.”
But the fact that entire careers can be made from
helping colleges comply with Title IX speaks to the law’s
complexity. Fairly or unfairly, Title IX has been the
subject of intense criticism from those who believe it has
led to unjust treatment of men in the pursuit of gender
equity. College leaders are also watching closely for new
guidance from the Trump administration, expected this
fall, on how they should respond to allegations of sexual
misconduct on their campuses.
Although fewer than half of community colleges
have intercollegiate sports programs, and most don’t
have on-campus housing, Title IX should still be a focus
area on community college campuses. Compliance with
the law requires ongoing communication, training and
establishing the right campus culture, college leaders say.
TITLE IX AND ATHLETICS
The National Junior College Athletic Association represents 518 two-year colleges with intercollegiate athletics programs in every state except California. Together,
these colleges have just under 60,000 student athletes—
about 46 percent of whom are women.
“Title IX plays a key role in ensuring equal opportunities for both men and women to participate in athletics,”
says NJCAA Executive Director Chris Parker.
Hillsborough Community College in Florida has had
an intercollegiate athletics program for many years, with
students competing in baseball, softball, men’s and women’s basketball, tennis and volleyball. Although the percentage of students who take part in athletics is small—
in 2016-17, only 89 of the college’s roughly 28,000 students
played a sport—Title IX Coordinator Elina Bivins has no
doubt that the law has opened doors for women at HCC
Yet, nearly 50 years after Title IX was enacted, there is
still confusion about what it requires. According to Good
Sports, the law follows the same general approach as all
civil rights legislation by requiring equal access to athletic
programs and equal treatment of those who participate.
To address access, there is a three-part test that gives
institutions three different ways to comply. Colleges only
need to meet one of these three requirements.
• Test one is proportionality: Ensure participation in athletics for women and men at rates that are proportional
to their enrollment.
• Test two is the continued expansion of programs for the
underrepresented sex: Show that opportunities have
been added for the underrepresented sex as their interests and abilities have evolved.
• Test three is full accommodation of the underrepresented
sex: Offer every team for which there is sufficient interest
and ability, as well as sufficient competition in the geographic areas where the college normally competes.
“Much confusion has arisen because opponents and
advocates of gender equity have both stated that pro-
portionality is the only way to comply,” Good Sports says
on its website. “It is not. If one gender is participating at
a rate that is less than their rate of enrollment … then
school officials have two other methods to show that
their actions did not cause the underrepresentation.”
Aside from the three-part test to ensure equal access
to athletic opportunities for both sexes, there are 12 areas
that colleges must consider with respect to equitable
treatment of student athletes: scholarships, coaching,
facilities, recruitment, equipment, scheduling, team
travel, tutoring, medical services, housing and dining,
support services and publicity.
Students study at Hillsborough Community College.