Cal's Title IX Compliance Nears ‘Magic Five Percent'





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Eight months after Cal students rejected a referendum that would have increased student fees to bring the athletic department into compliance with Title IX, gender equity in campus sports hovers slightly above the national average.

While Title IX is a far-reaching federal law that seeks to increase equity in public institutions, its more spectacular battles have been fought in the theater of intercollegiate sports. At the college level, the statute actually has three specific requirements - proportionality to the general student population, efforts to expand athletic opportunities for women on the part of universities, and equitable financial aid - and Cal hovers around the national average in each.

Although athletic department officials do not have final numbers on this year's compliance, preliminary statistics indicate that Cal has kept pace - to a degree - with changing student body demographics.

Cal's student population is now approximately 51 percent women and 49 percent men, according to Senior Women's Administrator Chris Dawson. The student athlete population is 44 percent women and 56 percent men, she said.

In 1992, the campus did a formal gender equity study in which officials targeted an equity ratio within 5 percent of the student population, Dawson said. The latest numbers fall just short of that goal.

The "magic 5 percent" is solely a campus goal. Title IX language only calls for "substantial proportionality" between the student and student-athlete populations. The university chose 5 percent because several court cases had established it as an acceptable margin.

Title IX's second tenet calls for universities to demonstrate a "history and practice of expanding opportunities for the under-represented gender," Dawson said.

In the past five years, Cal has added women's water polo, golf and lacrosse as varsity sports, which bring the school closer to full compliance.

"We think we would meet the requirements," Dawson said. "We live in a changing world in terms of what our campus population is. In terms of participation, I think we've made a lot of strides."

Cal must also improve its compliance with Title IX in the realm of athletic scholarships and aid, which total approximately $4 million a year.

"We still need to make improvements in the amount of financial aid we give to female student-athletes," Dawson said.

The federal Office of Civil Rights mandates that aid must be distributed within 1 percent of the population district, and that margin is rigidly applied. The campus has an about a 4 percent disparity, according to Dawson.

After the failure of last fall's Bridging Equity in Athletics and Recreation Sports referendum, which would have increased student fees in order to bring Cal into Title IX compliance, the athletic department is trying to find creative ways to provide more financial aid for women.

"We're always looking at our budgets at the end of the year to see where we need to allocate things, where we can save some money," Dawson said. "We're aware of our needs in financial aid. We take seriously our obligation to provide equal opportunities for our male and female student athletes."

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