Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

The March toward Equity: Title IX Advocates Reflect on Progress 40 Years after Landmark Law Is Passed

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

The March toward Equity: Title IX Advocates Reflect on Progress 40 Years after Landmark Law Is Passed

Article excerpt


When the Lady Bison lacrosse team at Howard University takes the field for its next intercollegiate game this month, the team will be writing another chapter in the history of the nation's only lacrosse team sponsored by an HBCU. The team also will be contributing to a larger chapter of American history regarding intercollegiate sports.

The team is an example of how the landscape of intercollegiate athletics has changed since Congress passed Title IX, the federal law that bars discrimination based on sex in educational programs at institutions that receive federal funds. Intercollegiate athletics is covered by Title IX which marks its 40th anniversary this year.

"We've come so far," says Karen Morrison, director of gender initiatives at the NCAA, echoing the sentiments of other Title IX advocates. "It's changed our country and certainly changed the opportunities for women in the country," says Morrison, who credits expanded intercollegiate athletics opportunities for women with boosting their professional lives beyond college.

Morrison, like many others, says her college athletics experience played a role in her successful pursuits, in her case law school. A former assistant basketball coach and administrator at the University of Colorado for 16 years, she joined the NCAA five years ago.

Since enforcement of the law began in 1978, there has been a steady drumbeat across the nation for equity in opportunities for women, particularly in the sciences and athletics. Many schools have responded with haste, pursuing ambitious athletic program expansion agendas that also help in recruiting women to their campuses. Others have been less than enthusiastic in complying. Meanwhile, the view of its impact on women from an employment perspective generates a mixed report.


The NCAA, which resisted gender equity efforts for years before shifting toward embracing them, has engaged in a range of efforts to help schools achieve the goals of the law. It has : established equity planning requirements, stages an annual equity forum, written a Title IX compliance manual and established a committee on women's sports that, starting this summer, will include college presidents (one from each of the NCAA's three divisions).

The NCAA also requires all member schools to designate a Senior Woman Administrator, or SWA, to help schools plan and implement their gender-based athletic programs in a nondiscriminatory way.

"It's (Title IX) not only opened the door, it's put a stop on the door so it wouldn't close," says HBCU ladies basketball coaching legend Sanya Tyler, the first full-time coach of women's basketball at Howard. "It's impacted athletics tremendously," says Tyler, who made history on the courts as a winning coach from 1980 to 2000 and, later, in the courts when she won a $2.9 million wage discrimination case against Howard. The court award in the District of Columbia Superior Court has helped improve compensation for women coaches across the nation.

The march toward equity

Indeed, the anecdotal observations of Tyler and others are supported by the widely respected findings of R. Vivian Acosta and Linda Jean Carpenter, researchers affiliated with Brooklyn College of the City University of New York. Acosta and Carpenter have studied the involvement of women in intercollegiate sports during the past 35 years. Their work is funded by Smith College's Project on Women and Social Change and Brooklyn College.

Their recent Acosta/Carpenter report, "A Longitudinal, National Study, Thirty-Five Year Update," provides a multitude of data, based on a survey of every NCAA member institution with a women's athletic program. Among its highlights:

* In 2012, there are an average of 8.73 women's teams per school and about 200,000 female intercollegiate athletes, the highest in history.

* There are 9,274 women's intercollegiate teams, the highest ever. …

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