Fifty Years On, Title IX’s Legacy Includes its Durability

Only 37 words changed the direction of education in America for many millions of girls and women. Title IX is a landmark 1972 education law. Its succinct language was written in fewer characters.

“You come on too strong for a woman.”

This was the message Dr. Bernice Sandersler received in 1969, when she applied to a University of Maryland permanent job. She was an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland. Three years later — after a class-action lawsuit on behalf of women in higher education and the sly maneuvering of a handful of lawmakers — women were given a means to ensure equal access to higher education for the first time in American history.

Title IX received a lot of attention for its dramatic repercussions. Title IX passed quietly, a whisper between two important provisions designed to grant rights to women during a 12-month period. These were the Equal Rights Amendment, and Roe v. Wade. 50 years later, only one of those three laws will still be in force.

The Equal Rights Amendment (which provided an explicit guarantee that women would be protected in the U.S. Constitution) was originally proposed and passed by the Senate in February 1972. However, it was rejected by too many states. It could not be added to the Constitution after a period of 10 years.

On June 23, 1972, President Richard M. Nixon signed Title IX.

Roe v. Wade was the Supreme Court’s decision which legalized abortion in America. It was published Jan. 22, 1973. It is believed the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade will not be celebrated. Leaked drafts of an opinion suggested on May 2nd that the Supreme Court may overturn the original ruling. That would lead to laws being changed in many other states quickly.

Title IX is so strong because of this. A broad public backing and an act by Congress are two of the key ingredients to Title IX’s durability. Title IX was meant to equalize college admissions. But perhaps the greatest achievement of Title IX has been its inclusion women in interscholastic athletics. This led to an increase in many youth sports for girls.

“Everyone can relate to sports, whether it’s your favorite team or college athletic experience — sports are a common denominator that brings us together,” said Dr. Courtney Flowers, a sports management professor at Texas Southern University and a co-author of a new analysis of Title IX by the Women’s Sports Foundation. “Everyone knows the word but ties it to athletics.”

This report estimates that there are 3 million more opportunities for girls to be involved in sport now than ever before Title IX. Today, 44 percent of college athletes are women, as opposed to 15 percent in Title IX.

“There had to be legislation that opened the door and changed the mind-set,” Flowers said, adding: “Because of Title IX, there is a Serena, there is a Simone Biles.”

Title IX emerged as an ember from the civil rights and women’s liberation movements. However, it was not as certain that Title IX would succeed like other policies. Experts said that the key to success was to keep it broad and under radar.

U.S. Reps. Edith Green of Oregon, a longtime advocate of women’s inclusion, and Patsy Mink of Hawaii, the first woman of color elected to Congress, saw the struggles that the Equal Rights Amendment had faced as it made its way through the House and Senate. When they started to draft Title IX they tried to avoid any pushback from their colleagues or educational institutions.

Green and Mink looked at amending 1964’s Civil Rights Act, which prohibited discrimination against employees on the grounds of race and sexual orientation in federally-funded programs. However, including an education clause was politically challenging.

Reauthorization of Higher Education Act of 1965 provided an opportunity for a ninth title (or subset) to be added in a long-list of education amendments. The final act became an Omnibus Education Bill that addressed anti-busting policies and federal financial aid to college students.

Green and Mink decided not to amend the Civil Rights Act Amendment, but they still saw a reason to keep its language.

The United States prohibits anyone from using the following:Based on sex.Participation in or being denied benefits from the program, as well as discrimination, will be prohibited Any education activity or programFederal financial aid.

Title IX was a major victory for Green, Mink, and other legislators “not by making a huge social movement driven by an aggressive stance for education equality,”Elizabeth A. Sharrow (Professor of Political Science and History at University of Massachusetts at Amherst) said the following: “They did so very subtly and quietly, and they did that on purpose because they anticipated that this idea — that we should name certain things as sex discrimination in education — could be politically contentious and they were better off finding ways to downplay it.”

For both Green and Mink it was personal. Their own discrimination experiences influenced their policymaking. Green initially wanted to be an attorney, but she was forced into teaching by her family. Mink was also denied admission to numerous medical schools as she is a woman.

“I do think that watching her daughter be subject to the same kinds of exclusion and straight-jacketing that she had experienced as a child and as a young adult trying to carve her way forward, seeing it happen all over again, was a real motivating factor for her to try to figure out a way to try to make equality the standard and discrimination declared the wrong,” said Wendy Mink, Patsy Mink’s daughter and a political scientist.

For Senator Birch Bayh, Indiana, it was also personal. He was given the task of completing Title IX’s Equal Rights Amendment by the Senate after he had sponsored it. Bayh’s wife, Marvella, had also been denied equal opportunities.

“My father came to feel that that was deeply unfair,”His son Evan Bayh was also an ex-Senator from Indiana. “He felt that if our society was going to fulfill its potential, we couldn’t disadvantage more than half the population.”

While the main thrust of the bill was focused on financial assistance and deed restrictions, Title IX was not given much attention. In his signing statement, President Nixon did not mention it. The bill’s signing made the front page of The New York Times; Title IX received a bullet point.

Although the Equal Rights Amendment was opposed by Phyllis Schlafly (who led a grassroots conservative campaign against it being ratified) and Roe v. Wade saw religious leaders and social conservatives ready to protest, there was no immediate opposition to Title IX, Dr. Deondra Rosa, an associate professor in public policy at Duke University, who focuses her research on the landmark American social policies.

Rose also called Title IX a “title IX.” “pivotal”Advantage can be passed on to future generations as an educational policy.

A 2017 poll by the National Women’s Law Center found that nearly 80 percent of voters supported Title IX. (A March survey by Ipsos and the University of Maryland of parents and children found that most had not heard of Title IX but believed generally that boys’ and girls’ sports teams should be treated equally.)

“It’s a hard thing for lawmakers to walk back,”Sharrow stated.

Sharrow stated that the Equal Rights Amendment and Roe v. Wade are linked because they all attempt to address gendered inequalities in American society. However, they have different approaches to using law and policy to enact changes.

Equal Rights Amendment is an attempt at amending the Constitution. It was intended to be quite difficult. Sharrow stated that it had been ratified. “It would have been far more sweeping than any other single policy.”

Roev. Wade, on the other hand, was an interpretive of constitutional law that was made by the Supreme Court.

Title IX’s advantage, Rose said, was that it was relatively vague, which “gave the regulation a fighting chance over time.”

That’s not to say Title IX avoided criticism. It was immediately signed into law and the issue of enforcement became a matter of urgency. “unleashed torrential controversy,”Wendy Mink stated that the controversy was centered primarily on athletics and education. In 1973 around the Roe decision, there was a lot of outrage. Long-running discussions over the enforcement guidelines that were approved in 1979 focused on whether or not sports should be considered a place for women.

“As backlash, they fed on each other — the backlash against women’s bodily sovereignty and the backlash against women being able to use their bodies in athletics,”Mink.

Title IX was expansive enough to provide protections for campus sexual harassment, assault and other forms of misconduct. Yale’s 1977 women group made that happen with a lawsuit which led to grievance procedures being established for all colleges in the United States.

“Title IX is excellent — we’re subjects, we’re not objects anymore,”Ann Olivarius (one of the Yale plaintiffs and an attorney specializing on sexual misconduct), said the following: “We’re actually participators, we are active narrators of our own life with our bodies and we know that we actually have bodies and we use those bodies.”

Title IX was designed to accommodate a wider range of people, much like it did in 1972. According to the Education Department, Title IX will be extended to transgender students in 2021. (The Biden administration is yet to approve its plans.

Eighteen states have enacted laws or issued statewide rules that restrict participation in girls’ sports divisions by transgender girls, and a group of 15 state attorneys general urged the Biden administration in April to reconsider its interpretation of Title IX.

“We’re seeing these policies and the necessity of moving beyond a very narrow definition of understanding of a policy like Title IX,”Rose stated. “Some people are working to use Title IX to restrict and confine, and that’s out of step with the intention of the policy.”

While the 50th anniversary of the law’s passage is a moment to celebrate, experts said, it is also a moment to consider what Title IX has not addressed. While access to college sports has improved, inequity still exists. Other elements besides sex, including race and disabilities, are not included in Title IX’s language.

“Yes, we celebrate, but, boy, we still have work to do,” Flowers said.

The Women’s Sports Foundation found that men have nearly 60,000 more opportunities in college sports than women have. In scholarships, recruitment dollars and coaching jobs, women in college sport lag behind their male counterparts. Women of color in particular are still trailing behind their white peers — only 14 percent of college athletes are women of color.

Many experts believe that Title IX will not meet the same fate as Roe v. Wade and Equal Rights Amendment. What and how Title IX can be weakened? “is in the eyes of the beholder,”Libby Adler from Northeastern University is a professor of constitutional law.

“I don’t see it being struck down. I can’t imagine what that would look like,” Adler said. “Never say never, but that’s unimaginable to me.”

Adler stated, however, that Title IX could be used to interpret Title IIX differently regarding transgender athletes, and other classes that are not defined explicitly in the language.

“It’s that elasticity or indeterminacy that makes it unlikely to be struck down, but much more likely to be interpreted in ways that are consistent with the politics of the judges we have,”Sie said.

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