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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, January 31, 2003

Landmark legislation survives rough test

 •  UH lauds Title IX panel
 •  Changes advised in women's athletics

By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Staff Writer

It has prevailed in eight federal appellate court districts and in the U. S. Supreme Court as the law of the land.

But Title IX might have survived the most challenging test of its 30 hardscrabble years yesterday:

Trial by dreaded governmental committee.

After a lot of huffing and puffing; after contentious hearings and much finger pointing and shouting, a blue ribbon federal advisory committee (and have you ever heard of any other kind?) failed to reach majority agreement on major changes that would have paved the way for diluting the landmark legislation.

Born into an uncertain existence as Title IX of the Education Amendment of 1972, and recently renamed the Patsy Mink Act in honor of the late congresswoman who helped champion its passage, the controversial legislation has dramatically altered the landscape of sports. Largely for the better.

By mandating equal rights in education, it has so far given two generations of women overdue opportunities in several areas, including athletics, that their grandmothers hardly dared dream of.

From high schools to the WNBA, it has changed the face of sports and perceptions of those who play them, for millions of people.

But along the way it has also found enemies in those who maintain that it has necessarily brought about a robbing of Peter to pay Paula. It has unfortunately seen administrators subtract opportunities from men in order to give them to women, too often blaming Title IX in the process.

So, seven months ago when U. S. Education Secretary Rod Paige convened a committee to review Title IX and make recommendations, it wasn't hard to see where this whole thing was being herded. It didn't take Oliver Stone to detect an opportunity to undermine, or at least water down, the intent and application of Title IX.

Unable to roll back some of the Title IX advances through the courts and stalled in the legislative branch, the convening of a committee opened up the possibility of a not-so-subtle Washington end run.

Only by a 7-7 standoff yesterday did Title IX, as we have come to know it, avert a majority opinion recommending significant changes.

That Title IX today stands substantially untouched is as it should be, because the intent of the legislation itself remains yet to be fully realized.

While great strides have been made in addressing equality since its advent, there continues to be much to do before Title IX's mission is accomplished. As long as opportunities for a segment of the population continue to lag, there is still work to be done.

Thankfully, even a government committee was able to grasp that much.