I have a conflict of interest. My wife, Jessica Gavora, has just written a devastating and wonderful book, "Tilting the Playing Field: Schools, Sports, Sex and Title IX." Actually, she didn't just write it, she spent more than a year writing it before she signed up as an adviser and chief speechwriter for Attorney General John Ashcroft. During that time, I had no choice but to learn about how colleges across the United States are eliminating men's sports in abject surrender to a feminist quota scheme. More on that in a minute.
Conflicts of interest are a pain for columnists because we often have "conflicts" about the things we care about most. And, because we care about these things our lives overlap with them.
The best, and most tragic, example of journalistic conflict of interest these days is Michael Kinsley. He has Parkinson's Disease. But he still thinks he should be allowed to write about such issues as stem cell research.
"Some might say this is a conflict of interest, and I therefore shouldn't write about this topic," he recently wrote in a Washington Post column. "Ordinarily, of course, like every professional opinion-peddler, I approach all issues from a perspective of utter Olympian detachment. It seems more like a bizarre convention than an ethical mandate that a person's views on a subject should be considered less interesting if his life is at stake."
I agree. But if it's bizarre that a life-or-death concern - what could be a greater conflict? - isn't a disqualifier, then why should much more trivial conflicts be a barrier?
Well, I'm also interested in my wife's book. So let me be honest about the conflict: I want it to sell through the roof. Yes, I want it to make enough money that she'll be able keep me in the style to which I would like to grow accustomed. But I also want it to sell because it's important and timely.
Men's intercollegiate sports are vanishing in this country. According to the General Accounting Office, since the passage of Title IX of the Education Act Amendments of 1972, more than 170 wrestling programs, 80 men's tennis teams, 70 men's gymnastics teams and 45 men's track teams have been closed, that's more than 80,000 slots for men. Today, there is no varsity-level wrestling in the state of Florida.
The anecdotes are endless. Providence College had to abolish its baseball team, after its best season ever, because of Title IX. Marquette University has recently abolished its wrestling team because of Title IX, and the wrestlers are leading a David-vs.-Goliath lawsuit against the federal government.
Why is this happening? Because feminists launched a successful campaign, with the explicit help of the Clinton Administration, to make "proportionality" the only test for whether a college campus is "discriminating" against women.
Here's how it works: If your school is made up of 60 percent women and 40 percent men, then your sports teams have to be 60 percent women and 40 percent men. It doesn't matter if every single woman on campus who wants to play a sport is playing; it doesn't matter if 10 times more men want to play sports than women. At the end of the day, you must have the exact same proportions of men and women as you do on the campus - or you can be sued.
The tragedy is that - propaganda notwithstanding - this results in fewer opportunities for men and for women. Take James Madison University. A couple years ago they hired a "gender equity" consultant, a former veteran of the education department's Office of Civil Rights. He explained to them that unless they had the right numbers balance, they were vulnerable to lawsuits.
So what did they do? They defunded five men's teams and three women's teams. Opportunities for both men and women dropped, but because the numbers of athletes remaining came out to 58 percent women and 42 percent men, they were safe from lawsuits.
Actual discrimination has nothing to do with any of this. It's an ideologically driven numbers game.
Feminists at places like the Women's Sports Foundation say the closures are all about men's football sucking up resources. Donna Lopiano, director of the WSF, recently told The New York Times, "Football programs are better funded than most professional sports. Football is pitting the victims against the victims. Until they wise up, men's minor sports will be crying the blues as football keeps laughing to the bank."
This is a bundle of lies. First, college football is usually the only profitable sport at most schools. More important, football has nothing to do with it. At Marquette, for just one example, men's wrestling was eliminated even though it received no funding from the university since 1992 and Marquette has no football team. Yes, college football programs have let minor men's sports twist in the wind, but football hasn't put these sports in jeopardy. Title IX feminists have.
I would find this all outrageous if my wife hadn't written the definitive - and only - expose on the subject. I don't see why I shouldn't say so.