I was born six months after Title IX was enacted; I have not known a world in which this civil rights legislation did not exist. I think of it as a bit of unearned good fortune. I know from experience that not everyone feels this way.
During my two decades in higher education, including stints overseeing sexual violence prevention efforts at colleges and universities, I’ve lived through the chaos caused by years of regulatory churn, and the headaches and heartache this caused to administrators and advocates trying follow the law and do right by students. And I’ve borne witness to the pain and bewilderment of many sexual assault survivors who hoped Title IX would offer them more or better tools for holding institutions and individuals accountable for the harm they experienced.
Now, 50 years later, despite these imperfections I do still believe that we, as a country, are better because of Title IX.
The benefits of Title IX
Title IX prohibits sex-based discrimination in educational institutions that receive federal funding. Title IX has been used to fight against unequal treatment based on sex in all aspects of education, from admissions to academics, to athletics to housing, health insurance and benefits, and has been a weapon against sexual harassment, discrimination of pregnant and parenting students, intimate partner violence, stalking, and hopefully soon sexual orientation and gender identity.
I have 25 years of experience working with individuals that have experienced harm on our campuses related to sexual and gender-based violence and I believe every single student has a right to experience all the benefits and the richness of the education opportunities they want to pursue. It’s easy to forget that this hasn’t always been the case. My own mother, in her first year at college as a married student became pregnant—with me. An ambitious and bright student, she faced open ridicule and inflexibility from faculty for her pregnancy.
Facing these academic headwinds and sexist expectations about parenting, she would drop out after completing the first year and take another 16 years to complete her degree, at night, while juggling a low-wage job and parenting, because those were the ones open to a woman without a college degree. My father—the other student in this story? He graduated on time.
- Equitable access can improve course completion and student success - June 8, 2023
- A lack of cloud experience could harm students’ job prospects - June 7, 2023
- 4 ways to optimize accessibility in higher ed - June 6, 2023