Rich Lowry

What is it about angry feminists that so scares the Bush administration? That makes it adopt a position of supine surrender, pleading, "Please, please, don't hurt us"?

These questions suggest themselves to anyone following the administration's handling of the controversy about Title IX, the anti-discrimination law that has been twisted into a sports quota that frankly discriminates against collegiate male athletes. The Bush administration has now given its seal of approval to this Maoist intrusion into college sports, for one reason -- it's too frightened to do otherwise.

Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 prohibits sex discrimination in any education program receiving federal funds. Fair enough. But a 1979 regulatory interpretation of the law said colleges should provide male and female sports opportunities in exact proportion to the male and female composition of the student body, i.e., if the student body is 60-40 female-male, the athletic slots have to be 60-40 as well. In 1996, the Clinton administration told schools that meeting this so-called "proportionality test" is the only way to avoid getting sued for sex discrimination.

Since women aren't naturally as interested in sports as men, the only way to achieve the mandated match with the student body is by eliminating men's sports programs and calling it "gender equity."

According to a 2001 General Accounting Office report, since the 1970s, more than 170 men's wrestling programs, 80 men's tennis teams, 70 men's gymnastics teams and 45 men's track teams have been axed. Schools have been known to measure the floor space of women's and men's offices in athletics departments to make sure they are equal. Government investigators have even inquired why men's basketballs are bigger than women's.

This is the proportionality test at work. The Bush administration was considering fixing it by regulation a year or so ago. Then it got a whiff of the feminist outrage around Title IX.

Any proposed reform is portrayed as certain to send women back to the 18th century and into hoop skirts and corsets, even though the quota does nothing to increase opportunities for women, but merely punishes male athletes for the sin of being part of the patriarchy.

So, the administration took the cowardly way out -- forming a commission to study the issue. There was a consensus on the commission that Title IX was broken. It didn't go nearly far enough, but it at least recommended a few sensible reforms.

Rich Lowry

Rich Lowry is author of Legacy: Paying the Price for the Clinton Years .
TOWNHALL DAILY: Be the first to read Rich Lowry's column. Sign up today and receive daily lineup delivered each morning to your inbox.