Equality in action: The enduring legacy of Title IX


Carissa DuhamelCopy Editor

Southern Connecticut State University celebrated the 40th anniversary of Title IX, an equality act passed for educational institutions, last week by holding a day-long conference entitled, “Equality in Action: The Enduring Legacy of Title IX” in its honor. Chairs Tricia Lin, PhD, James Barber, and Patricia Nicols, all SCSU faculty, organized the event to encompass the history that brought this legislature to fruition leading up to its persisting relevance today.

The event commenced in Engleman with welcome remarks made by U.S. Representative for Connecticut, Rosa DeLauro, who explained her journey as a woman through state politics alongside Title IX.

Following her opening speech, the conference proceeded into its first discussion panel. Led by feminist historian and author Susan Ware, and President and founder of consulting firm Sports Management Resources, Donna Lopiano, the forum explored the early development of Title IX to its passing in 1972, and beyond.

The two discussed, among other topics, exactly what Title IX is. Though commonly misinterpreted as solely sports-related legislature, as stated by federal law, it insists, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

Title IX ensures individuals will not be discriminated against based on sex in access to not only athletics, but higher education, career education, education for pregnant or parenting students, employment, learning environment, math and science, sexual harassment, standardized testing and technology, which the conference reflected in its panels.

“Sports is a huge part of Title IX,” said panelist, feminist, and journalist Chase Olivarius-McAllister, “And it is vital, but it by no means encompasses everything [in regards to Title IX], especially on a college campus.”

Speakers probed past the obvious athletic association to sift through the future possibility of using Title IX to greatly expand the presence of women in science fields, similarly to the way the act famously opened up opportunities in sports to females, as well as examined the full breadth of how the law can be applied legally during the morning panels, among other topics.

SCSU graduate Wendy Wyler speaking about Title IX and fighting sexual harassment in universities.

SCSU graduate Wendy Wyler speaking about Title IX and fighting sexual harassment in universities.

“It is only a 37 word law, but [Title IX] can be interpreted in so many ways,” said Tricia Lin, co-chair of the committee and chair of the women’s studies department at Southern, “Its full potential has yet to be fully realized.”

As the day moved on the conference continued to become progressively more forward thinking, holding a luncheon in the Adanti Student Center ballroom which featured a panel focused on determining what the future of Title IX holds.

Forums that followed traversed through topics such as experiences of gender-based discrimination in journalism, the best way to overcome partiality in the workplace, and unjustly unresolved sexual harassment in university settings – a problem which has rampantly gone without punishment across many of the nation’s campuses.

Attorney and founder of the Victim Advocacy and Research Group, Wendy Murphy applauded SCSU for even entertaining a conversation about sexual harassment at colleges, which many other universities refuse to do, especially when under criticism for possibly violating Title IX as the school is now regarding current professor of music, David Chevan.

“The fact that Southern is allowing for a conversation like this at all,” she said during the sexual misconduct forum, for which she was on the panel, “Is something most schools won’t even consider.”

The conference ended with a catered dinner held again in the ASC ballroom punctuated by a speech from keynote speaker Ann Meyers, ex-professional basketball player and sportscaster, who reminded the audience of the area Title IX has enjoyed its biggest success in. However, leaving the conference individuals were imparted with much more than basketball.

“The conference was not just a one day event, because we can always do that and that is limited, but it should also be an ongoing conversation,” Lin said, “Our tagline was ‘It’s not just a conference, it’s a movement.’ Although that one day is over, we hope there still will be many, many constructive ongoing dialogues [about Title IX].”

“Equality in Action: The Enduring Legacy of Title IX” was held at SCSU on Friday, Oct. 11 from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. Over 200 people were in attendance.

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