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Goldstein Concerns Title IX Supporters

Government: Chicago attorney, who has represented plaintiffs challenging sexual discrimination law, is appointed to high post in office that enforces it.

July 11, 2002|MARYANN HUDSON HARVEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

If leading proponents of Title IX weren't already fearful of the Bush administration's motives last month, when formation of a panel to reevaluate the law was announced, they now have this to consider: Chicago attorney Lou Goldstein, who has represented male athletes in litigation against colleges challenging Title IX, was recently named to a high post in the very office that enforces it.

Title IX, enacted 30 years ago, prohibits sex discrimination in federally funded education programs, including athletics, and is generally credited with having greatly increased opportunities for girls and women in school sports.

On April 29, Goldstein was appointed by U.S. Education Secretary Roderick Paige as deputy assistant secretary for policy in the Office for Civil Rights, although that appointment was not announced by the Department of Education.

"[Paige] hired someone who is familiar with Title IX and the statutes and the regulations that emanate from this department," Brian Jones, chief counsel to Paige, said Tuesday. "Policy is going to be set by the secretary and the president. We are here to serve them, and they have made it unequivocally clear of their support for Title IX."

A source close to the department, however, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Goldstein had been brought in under "a cloak of darkness."

"There's a lot of stuff going on and no one is paying attention because they are too wrapped up in the flag," the source said. "It's like there's an elephant standing in the middle of the [Education] office, doing its thing, and everyone is just walking around it, ignoring it."

Requests to interview Goldstein, Paige or Gerald Reynolds, who heads the Office for Civil Rights, were instead handled by Jones.

The Bush administration's announcement June 27 of a Commission on Opportunity in Athletics brought public outcry from proponents of Title IX. The commission includes 15 athlete representatives and academicians charged with reevaluating the law. The panel includes athletes and some supporters of Title IX, but some proponents are skeptical, pointing out that the administration's platform for the 2000 election had a plank supporting an approach to Title IX that would expand women's opportunities without adversely affecting men's teams.

"I'm not familiar with Lou Goldstein, but it doesn't surprise me that he was hired," said Donna Lopiano, executive director of the Women's Sports Foundation. "It is clear that the Bush administration is seeking a way to weaken Title IX. It was clear when they included a plank on the Republican platform that specifically addressed Title IX."

Some men's groups maintain that Title IX has led to reverse discrimination, resulting in elimination of men's teams.

Goldstein, a partner in the Chicago firm he founded, Goldstein & Fluxgold, P.C., unsuccessfully represented male soccer players and wrestlers in a reverse sexual discrimination suit against Illinois State University, which dropped the men's teams and added a women's team to comply with Title IX. In a similar suit, he represented male athletes against Miami of Ohio, which eliminated three men's varsity sports to comply with Title IX.

Courts have repeatedly denied challenges to Title IX, which are traditionally brought against educational institutions. Currently, the Department of Education is being sued by the National Wrestling Coaches Assn. and other groups claiming that Title IX policies impose quotas and discriminate against men. This suit, brought on the 30th anniversary of Title IX, prompted the Bush administration to form the reevaluating panel, Jones said.

Paige says the panel's recommendations won't automatically be adopted.

"Some would like to settle this in the courts," Paige said when announcing formation of the commission. "But we believe the better approach is to discuss all the questions openly, in a forum where all voices and all viewpoints can be heard."

Marcia Greenberger, co-president of the National Women's Law Center, has taken issue with that.

"On one hand, Paige talked about concern that this is not a quota bill, but then he says that this is an issue that shouldn't be resolved in the courts," she said. "This is a concern, since every court has upheld Title IX. The kinds of interpretations that wrestlers and others have been urging, if in place, would arrest any development of women's athletic opportunities and put into place the status quo of the early '70s."

Said Cynthia Cooper, who co-chairs the panel with Stanford Athletic Director Ted Leland, "We are charged with assessing the equal opportunities in athletics for men and women. We might find out everything is fine, that Title IX is working perfectly.

"We need to take a look at it."

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