Equality's legislative burden


John Baden runs an influential environmental-economic think-tank in Montana. In his syndicated column for the US papers this week he strays off that brief onto what is for him a more personal issue. The so-called 'Title IX' law passed in 1972 bans discrimination on the basis of sex in colleges that receive federal funds. It was designed to end the discrimination against women that was rife in employment and selection policies at the time. But it can also be taken to demand equal treatment – and numbers– in college sports.

Baden welcomes the six-fold increase in female college sports participation since the legislation. But he cites three problems. First, a number of men's teams have simply been disbanded in order that colleges can claim they are achieving parity. Second, there has been a huge rise in litigation over the work conditions and salaries of female coaches and administrators. These are hardly happy outcomes.

But Baden is perhaps most concerned with the fact that, because more women are encouraged to participate at more demanding levels so that colleges hit their quotas, serious injuries among female athletes have increased. Baden's own daughter needed knee reconstruction as a result of this – and such injuries, he says, can be a lifetime burden.

Baden supports equal sports opportunities for women. But he acknowledges that it comes at a price we would be irresponsible to ignore.