Erin Buzuvis set out six years ago to become an expert on Title IX, the federal antidiscrimination law that turns 40 this month. So the Western New England University law professor, with the help of University of Iowa Ph.D. candidate Kristine Newhall, launched Title IX Blog in September 2006, not knowing just how much fodder the subject matter would provide. Envisioned as a searchable record of legal developments for her own scholarly benefit, the blog’s near-daily posts have attracted a following among athletics administrators, many with their own questions and suggested story angles. Paul Steinbach asked Buzuvis, a former high school swimming and track athlete who now competes recreationally in ice hockey and softball, what Title IX has meant to her.
Q: Have you succeeded in becoming a Title IX expert?
A: I'm always thinking about Title IX, because the blog forces me to. I feel like it's a continuous obligation — one that I love — but an obligation to sort of stay on top of every development in the law. So as a professional development tool, this blog has been invaluable.
Q: All things considered, has Title IX been a success?
A: Athletics wasn't on the table for women and girls before Title IX, and now it's a normalized part of the culture — which is not to say that we've achieved equality and don't need to use Title IX to fight our battles anymore. If you read the blog for just a minute, you'll see there's still plenty of discrimination out there that needs to be addressed. While we’ve shrunk the gender gap in athletic opportunities in both high school and college, there is still a very persistent gender gap. I'm happy to see that access equalizing, but at the same time I'm looking forward to Title IX's ability to do even more. Certainly, this isn’t the last big anniversary of Title IX that we’re going to be commemorating on the blog.
Q: Anything about Title IX that you would change?
A: The law definitely struggles with an image problem, because when universities do have to cap or curtail men's opportunities, there's this sort of easy story that, "Well, it’s because of Title IX that we had to do this." While I believe that is a misleading statement, it is a story that gets told. At the same time, though, Title IX has been a remarkably resilient statute in its application to athletics. It's unbelievable to me, looking back over the 40 years. Initially, the NCAA was leading a charge to try to get Title IX to exclude athletics from its coverage or provide exemptions for men's sports like football and basketball, and doing that in the political realm. And none of that succeeded. Every time there's been a Congressional commission to reform Title IX, it hasn't gotten much traction. Various presidents have tried, but every time there's a push against Title IX through the political process, it becomes known what strong support it has among a majority of Americans. People agree that it's important to stand for equality, and to stand up against those who try to weaken the law.