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An explanation of Title IX and its importance to Women’s History Month

By Nora Fitzgerald
nfitzgerald2@springfieldcollege.edu

“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” –  Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. A§ 1681 ET. SEQ.

Title IX, along with other major women’s rights victories that have happened in March, has led to March being nationally recognized as Women’s History Month. 

During the month of March, it is important to recognize the vital contributions made to the women’s rights movement over the years. The culmination of these contributions is what allows women today to continue breaking glass ceilings.

Title IX is a very recent field considering that institutions of higher education have existed since the 17th century. Although, women were not permitted to attend colleges and universities until the late 1800s. 

For over a hundred years, higher education institutions had no federally mandated approach to dealing with gender based misconduct. It was not until 1972, following the Civil Rights Act, that the federal government implemented a national standard for sex discrimination within the scope of college campuses known as Title IX.

One of the ways we can see Title IX work in action is through sport. Thanks to Title IX, participation in female collegiate sports has grown exponentially. 

Prior to this legislation, women’s athletic teams were underfunded, ill-equipped and not taken nearly as seriously as male sports teams. Female athletes now have a legal right to fair scheduling, appropriate medical care and sufficient funding. 

The pressure and criticism that female athletes face is part of why this law is so important. There is still so much work to do to empower female athletes to keep up with their sport. 

According to Time Magazine, young girls are twice as likely to quit their sport by age 14 compared to their male counterparts. However, with Title IX in effect, there is growing support to protect and uplift women in sport.

The Obama administration’s Dear Colleague Letter of 2011 brought more clarity and direction to a college or university’s approach to resolving gender based misconduct outlined in the original Title IX document. 

Another important body of legislation is the Clery Act, and more specifically, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) amendments issued in 2014. VAWA expanded some of the judicial processes that relate to interpersonal or dating violence and increased visibility of domestic violence issues. 

The most recent adjustments to the federal Title IX rules came from Betsy DeVos, former president Donald Trump’s Secretary of Education. These changes were miniscule in writing, but made the process of investigation a bit more complicated. 

DeVos implemented these changes in an effort to ensure due process, both for the accused and the accuser. Title IX officials are anticipating more changes coming from the Biden administration. 

President Biden has not specifically outlined a plan for these changes, however things may start to unfold from the Department of Education as Miguel Cardona was just confirmed as Secretary of Education. 

Springfield College’s perspective on student misconduct is that it is an educational process that requires prevention and appropriate discipline. The Office of Non-Discrimination Initiatives is constantly exploring alternative solutions to sexual misconduct that will allow students to grow, thrive and succeed during their time at Springfield. 

When it comes to sensitive situations such as sexual assault or dating violence, the college ensures that student safety comes first and works as a neutral body to find an appropriate solution to the matter at hand. 

The Title IX process can be a difficult one to navigate, and students may be intimidated by the complexities of this work. On our campus, the Office of Non-Discrimination Initiatives (aka the Title IX office) can be found on the main level of the Campus Union, Office 228. 

Students are always welcome to come pick up any resources or ask questions to understand more about what ONDI can do for them.

The Office will be promoting upcoming programs and events during the month of March in the Campus Union, so stay tuned for more from their office. Erin Leeper, Director of Non-Discrimination Initiatives, can be reached by email at eleeper@springfieldcollege.edu or titleix@springfieldcollege.edu.

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1 comment

  1. There is so much more to Title IX than in this well researched but (sorry) lifeless article. Tite IX came into being when I was a freshman in high school. At the time, there was no girls track team, no girls soccer, no girls tennis, no girls gymnastics. We did have field hockey. The rule was interpreted to require a girls team for every boys team and overnight we suddenly had teams.
    This was an extremely controversial requirement. I remember one college coach quit her career because she believed in the purity of amateur sport and believed womens sports would become corrupted as mens sports.
    Many people complained about the expense and the waste of having a team for girls. It was a unnecessary, I heard on of my firend’s father say, as home ec classes for boys. (Let that sink in)
    I had never played in a sport more organized than Red Rover in backyards. (There was no Little League for girls) I joined the field hockey team, gymnastics and track. I was second string left wing (the position for the worst player) in field hockey. I was politely asked to manage the girls gymnastics team after two years of little progress. And I was the star hurdler for track.
    Through these activities I learned to try even when I sucked. I learned there were other ways to participate that I truly enjoyed (I did become manager of girls gymnastics, I learned to spot, put routines together and became a licensed judge). I learned that being the star hurdler with school records was great, even though it was never a sport I loved. Most importantly, I learned what being on a team meant.
    What would I have done if I didn’t have these challenges? I might have joined the Latin Club (the language), it would be nice to have mastered some Latin after four years of it. I might have gotten involved in leadership positions. Or I might have sat on the couch watching TV, I might have gotten a job. There were other ways my life could have gone.
    Today at 64 I play tennis twice a week and work out with a trainer twice a week. I’m my doctor’s favorite patient because I need no medicine. Do I have to explain to any Springfield student the uncountable physical and emotional benefits of sport?
    Latin Club would have been good. But without the base of organized sports that only Title IX made possible I would not be as healthy mentally or physically as I am today. And I like that.

    Suzanne B. Robotti

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