A story of cheerleaders and how they are to give women equality
Here’s a strange story, from the often strange world of American college sports. You may possibly not have heard of it, but in Hamden, Connecticut, there is a higher education institution called Quinnipiac University. It has hit upon an interesting wheeze to get round legal equality requirements imposed under Title IX of the Education Amendments Act 1972, which provides:
‘No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.’
Broadly speaking this has been interpreted to mean, amongst other things, that college sports programmes must make equal or equivalent provision for men and women. As many sports are gender-specific, the assumption has been that universities operate within the law if they ensure that there are roughly the same opportunities for men and women to participate in sports, even if not always in the same games or teams.
In Quinnipiac University the powers that be decided to disband the women’s volleyball team, and to compensate for the lost sporting opportunities it augmented instead its cheerleading squad, claiming that this was more cost-effective and served more women. Now five of the former volleyball players have sued the university, claiming that it was in violation of its legal obligations as ‘cheerleading’ is ‘not a real sport’. The case is currently before the United States District Court, and the outcome may turn out to be decisive in the development of women’s sports across America.
So what are the issues at stake here? First, it seems to me that there is a major need for American higher education to get sports into some sort of perspective. I am hugely committed to our own sports activities, and believe that sports and athletics have added great value to DCU. But nevertheless, in many US universities this has got out of hand, and educational activities are taking second place to sports. This is not, or should not be, sustainable.
Secondly, while it is inevitable that men and women will often play in different teams, the value of their sports should be equivalent, and it is particularly important to avoid the impression that women should play a supporting role, rather than be athletes in their own right. I hope this case is decided correctly!Explore posts in the same categories: sport, university comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.