Costly Sex Discrimination Puts University Administrators In The Hot Seat

From the Chronicle of Higher Education today:

A California state senator grilled Charles B. Reed, chancellor of the California State University system, and John D. Welty, president of its Fresno campus, on their commitment to gender equity in athletics at a special hearing here on Tuesday.

The senator is somewhat peeved about two recent settlements - one for $5.85 million to former women's volleyball coach Linda Vivas, and another for $3.5-million with a former women's swimming coach and assistant athletics director. After awhile, the millions start to add up, and people notice. You know, like taxpayer people.

Dean Florez, who convened the committe that held the hearing, said:

"People want to know, how did this thing explode to where we are today?" he said. "They want to know if there was a culture of gender discrimination that permeated the university."

Not at all, assured the chancellor. Why, we've only had six lawsuits in the last ten years, and we've won two of them!

Yes, yes, because lawsuits are the one and only measure of how much gender discrimination is going on at your university.

Maybe it's just me, but I'm guessing that, in a university where male administrators in the athletics department used to celebrate "Ugly Women in Athletics Day", you may have a bigger problem than just what manages to percolate up to the level of lawsuits.

President Welty gave this testimony at the hearing:

At the hearing, Mr. Welty commended his athletics director, Thomas C. Boeh, who took office in 2005, for his commitment to gender equity. "It's a core value of our senior leadership team," Mr. Welty said.

Alas, despite gender equity being a core value of the senior leadership team, Mr. Welty was unable to recall, when asked, "how many members were on a new equity subcommittee of the Athletic Advisory Council, and how many of them were women".

Disheartening as all this is, I am nevertheless heartened by the state legislature's interest in Title IX issues in public universities. Title IX is not just for athletics, even though the major focus has been on athletics since its inception. We in science and engineering would do well to learn from the example of our sisters in athletics, and to support them at every step along the way. Their struggle is our struggle; their success, our success.

To all of you out there fighting the good Title IX fight, I say hang in there, and I say thank you from all of us.

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