By Kathy Mangano
On May 15, 2022, as the country prepared to celebrate the 50th anniversary on June 23 of President Richard Nixon’s signing of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Billie Jean King took the stage to deliver our 136th commencement address. This event kicked off Celebrating Opportunity: 50 years of Title IX at Springfield College.
This legislation greatly impacted my life and career. It seemed fitting to focus my Humanics project on the civil rights law that provides access and equality in education to all. On Aug. 9, I shared my Humanics project, Title IX at 50: Educate & Advocate, with our community.
During my first campus visit over 40 years ago, I gravitated to our Humanics philosophy. The College seal; the triangle; spirit, mind, and body; the lamp of knowledge; and the circle that encloses the triangle – symbolizing balance – are the building blocks of our Humanics mission. In the first Humanics lecture in 1967, Seth Arsenian said, “The meaning of Humanics cannot stay static,” and must be “ tested out in action.” For me, the words “in action” were key.
I was 8 when Title IX passed. I didn’t then appreciate what trailblazers did to improve inequities facing girls and women. And in this anniversary year, I realized how much I didn’t know. So, I spent the year taking action to educate and advocate to preserve and strengthen this law, encouraging others to do the same.
The Title IX Commemoration Steering Committee, the Office of Non-Discrimination Initiatives, and pioneers Mimi Murray, Diane Potter, Jone Bush, Dottie Zenaty, Branwen Smith-King, Donna Lopiano and Shawn Ladda were instrumental in educating through their participation in programming offered this year.
A diverse group of individuals agreed to be interviewed for webcasts that we dropped on the ninth day of each month. They answered questions, shared personal stories, and gave advice on securing Title IX, reaching more than 1,560 viewers.
Title IX celebratory events included 9/9 for Title IX: The History of Women’s Basketball Day, and featured now-Governor Maura Healey. The Sporting Woman: Insights from Her Past exhibit in the Wellness Center, and the Celebrating Title IX at 50 display in the Learning Commons provided historical reference. Reading trail signs, and Title IX cab rides where we drove people around campus while asking Title IX questions for prizes rounded out the activities.
Two powerful events were the Students Against Violence Everywhere “Take Back the Night,” and the Women’s Forum sponsored by the Women of Power, the Student Society for Bridging Diversity, and the Men of Excellence. These featured stories from students who are taking action to make a difference.
Our Title IX social media channels and The Springfield Student newspaper were two active “educating and advocating” voices, for which I am thankful. Celebrating Title IX was part of many School of PEPSL lectures. The Sports and Social Justice Symposium spotlighted Cathie Schweitzer, our first female athletic director. And, Title IX: Across the Professions featured a panel of cross-generational alumnae discussing how Title IX provided pathways into careers in male-dominated fields.
On February 9, students, faculty, and staff shared their advocacy projects to help educate, secure, and/or strengthen Title IX at the Title IX Advocacy in Action event. Through reflection papers, they shared how what they learned relates to Humanics.
We must remain vigilant, taking action to ensure inclusive practices and engaging in speech that leads toward justice, beyond our campus community and within it. We must embrace an inclusive culture, appreciate others, and invite the dissent that preserves our distinctive Humanics philosophy, in spite of fear. We must also elect, employ, and hold accountable decision makers who support equity; and direct resources needed to hold schools and districts in compliance.
Title IX successes are plentiful. There is greater access to educational opportunities and careers and professions that previously were gender stereotyped. There are improved policies to help sexual harassment and assault survivors. Pregnant and parenting students can stay in school. There are greater protections for queer and transgender students. There is increased access to athletic opportunities.
Every presidential administration since 1972 has tried to bend the law to align with their ideology. Moving forward, public policy must help secure and maintain rights of all individuals, and advocates vigilant in their actions.
We should be grateful to the pioneers who initiated this journey for equality, but there are still battles to fight. In the next 50 years, we will lean on younger activists to carry the torch of equity and justice forward.
My gratitude to those who provided me with guidance, support, and assistance. I especially want to thank my friends and family.
Best wishes to my dear colleague, Miguel Arce, the 2023-2024 Distinguished Professor of Humanics. I look forward to his exciting year!
Photo: Springfield College