Ending Title IX Survey a “No-Brainer”?

When kids want to know if other kids want to play a game they just ask, “Hey, wanna play?”

Apparently, that kind of straightforward interest assessment won’t cut it with the Obama administration, which today announced that it is eliminating the option for schools to survey women about their desires to play intercollegiate sports in order to comply with Title IX.  The only safe way for schools to comply with the law, as a result, will be to have men and women participate in athletics in almost perfect proportion to their share of total enrollment, and without regard to how potentially disproportionate their desires to play.

In announcing the logic-leaping change, Vice President Biden said it was a “no-brainer.” That’s true, but not in the way Biden intended.

The main problem, though, almost certainly isn’t that Title IX supporters can’t see how obvious and straightforward a survey is for assessing interest in playing sports.  The main problem is likely that many supporters don’t actually want women to be able to express their interest, lest its relative paucity be revealed. And, a survey would almost certainly show a big interest gap, as evidenced by three to four times as many men playing college intramural sports, or men flocking to sports sites on the internet while women clearly prefer social networking.

Of course, the fairest way to judge women’s interest in intercollegiate athletics isn’t a survey – which can’t easily capture intensity of interest – but letting women reveal their preferences by freely choosing between schools that offer lots of athletic opportunities and schools that don’t.  And don’t say that that wouldn’t work because women would be systematically barred from the playing fields: Constituting nearly 57 percent of enrollment at four-year schools, colleges have huge incentives to offer women what they want.  Which seems, sadly, to be exactly what Title IX supporters are afraid of.