Text by Madison Boyle and Robert Rohrbach
Feature Graphic by Joshua Reiss

Title IX is a federal civil rights law that protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive Federal financial assistance. The law was passed as a part of the Education Amendments of 1972, and has been broadly applied to areas such as recruitment, admissions, athletics, and sex-based harassment.  

But why is Title IX important in athletics?

In the school year prior to the implementation of Title IX, only 31,852 out of 204,299 collegiate athletes were female, ~16 percent. This was not due to a lack of female interest in sports, but rather a lack of support and opportunity from the universities for female athletes. 

Prior to Title IX, there was a lack of funding for women’s sports teams, making it difficult for women to compete. In fact, in the 1971-1972 school year, women’s sports teams received only 2% of the average university’s athletic budget. This often meant that women’s sports teams could not travel to games, could not afford top coaches, and could not provide the proper equipment to its female athletes. Another factor that contributed to the disadvantage for female athletes was the lack of athletic scholarships available to the teams.

Title IX falls short of perfect
By Amro Hwary and Zane Zandier

Title IX, as it’s currently enacted, tackles
three elements of athletics: participation, scholarships, and athlete treatment and benefits. In terms of participation, Title IX does not require schools to offer identical sports to male and female athletes, but rather requires that men and women have equitable opportunities to participate in sports. 

The regulations for scholarships have a similar approach. Title IX does not require schools to delegate scholarships 50/50, but requires that male and female scholarship funds are proportional to their participation. 

Lastly, male and female athletes must have equal access to equipment, facilities, practice times, medical staff, coaching, housing, support services, and recruitment of athletes. All of these efforts have increased female participation in sports by 545% since 1972. And while Title IX has substantially changed the world of women’s sports, particularly high school and college athletics, the battle for equality is not yet over. 

There are many myths associated with what Title IX means and how it’s enacted. This should clear (some) things up.

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A narrative persists that Title IX has caused universities to cut men’s programs in order to create equal opportunities for women athletes. Is that true? It’s complicated.

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Sexual violence numbers paint a bleak and incomplete picture

By Hunter Parker

Timeline of events important to Title IX
Graphic by Jake Dexter

Participation: How has Title IX impacted enrollment and promoted diverse participation?

Beyond the realm of sports, Title IX has had a major impact on university enrollment, offerings, and how they function at large. Over time the law has had an impact on the amount of diversity in university enrollment. The Justice Department breaks down some of the key statistics stemming from that impact since 1970:  “In 2009, approximately 87 percent of women had at least a high school education and approximately 28 percent had at least a college degree, up from 59 percent with a high school education and 8 percent with a college degree.” 

Decades of court rulings referencing Title IX have opened university doors around the country to a much wider portion of the population. Groups of people who previously would not have considered college as a realistic life choice are now becoming the majority of participants as “Women now have higher graduation rates and lower high school dropout rates, take more Advanced Placement exams, and earn more advanced degrees than their male counterparts.” Enrollment and participation in general have clearly benefited universities as well as their student bodies, allowing them to increase their funds, revenue, and activities and continue to grow.

Benefits: What benefits have been added/gained for women since Title IX?

After the implementation of Title IX, the amount and types of benefits available to students has continued to expand and diversify. Courses and education paths typically reserved and thought of as male or female dominated were promoted to either gender. Educational, and in-turn professional opportunities, became more widely available. As stated by Everfi, an education services company, “In effect, women can now sign up for plumbing, welding, engineering and other classes that were restricted. And males can sign up for nursing, teaching and other traditionally ‘female’ classes.”

The educational aspects were among the first to be addressed; however, needs outside of education dealing with health and safety have proven necessary for successful completion of university studies. Circumstances that universities had historically used to exclude women, such as pregnancy, can no longer be used as justification for removing a student from a university or relieving professors of their jobs. As stated by one of Title IX’s authors, Bernice Sandler,  “If girls got pregnant they were literally kicked out of most schools. Very often people knew who the father was…[but] he didn’t receive any punishment at all. Women teachers also faced tough consequences for getting pregnant, routinely losing their jobs when they began to show.” Since the passing of Title IX, such rulings have been contested and struck down in courts, helping to reverse these policies and establish the proper benefits needed to complete a safe, healthy, and successful education.

Discrimination: How has this been impacted by title IX?

Universities throughout the country held similar discriminatory policies, some that went as far as to refuse married women or even just women in general. Universities that held such policies, such as Georgetown and the University of Virginia, were forced to not only revert previously established discriminatory policies, but also build new policies with some sense, or at least appearance, of inclusivity. After its passage in 1972, policies that refused admission to married women, as well as those that refused women in general, became illegal.

There was also a shift in power that allowed individuals to have more of a say in both their university experience and deciding if that experience was fair or legal. The 1979 case, Cannon vs. University of Chicago, established that individuals have the power to hold universities accountable for discrimination. Using Title IX as justification, the plaintiff successfully established that she was denied admission based on sex. What Title IX had not addressed prior to this case, was whether or not “private right of action” was implied. The Supreme Court’s decision established that Cannon should be granted the right to this course of action, shifting more power to individuals. 

While Title IX has not persisted without challenges (i.e. Grove City College vs. Bell 1984), the opportunities and benefits it has created and protected have continued to be extended. In 1988, the Civil Rights Restoration Act ruled that universities receiving federal funding must make all university programs and activities Title IX compliant, not solely the programs receiving funding. This expanded the number of programs, activities, and ultimately, students who receive protection under Title IX. Through the enforcement of Title IX in the court system, educational opportunities and protections to those pursuing them have seen widespread participation and success, though, as some of the other articles involved in this project show, there are still hurdles on the path to full equality.

Title IX in the Power 5

While student-athletes often get the headlines for Title IX complaints, they are only a small part of a much larger problem, and as Evan McDivitt discovered, that problem is made even more complex since every school has different reporting standards. (data from ESPN)

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Graphic detailing the percentage of sexual assaults experienced by college students (broken down by graduate-undergraduate status and gender)
Graphic by Dariya Zhumashova; Data from “Report on AAU Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Misconduct”