The Daily Egyptian | 50 years with Title IX: How far have we really come?

The passing of Title IX in 1972 guaranteed many women the freedom to participate in many sports and academic programs without sexual discrimination being a barrier.

According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Title IX prohibits sex discrimination (including pregnancy, sexual orientation and gender identity) in any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance. “

Title IX has paved a way for many young women to be able to compete, receive scholarships and receive acknowledgment for their accomplishments in sports programs and teams, as well as academics.

Statistics from the Women’s Sports Foundation show, at the college level, there was an increase of 29,977 in female athletes from 1971 to 1972. By 2020-2021, 215,486 female athletes were on competing and sponsored sports teams under the NCAA.

The percentage of college women athletes rose from 15% in 1972 to 44% during the 2020-2021 school year.

At the high school level, substantial growth was seen in young women’s participation in sports from 294,015 positions to more than 3 million in 2019. That same year, young women made up 43% of the high school varsity athletes.

Southern Illinois University (SIU) is on the right path to being a campus with equality despite developments in funding with sports programs still needing to be improved, SIU student and graduate student instructor Janine Armstrong said.

“We still put a lot more funding into our men’s sports than our women’s sports, for example, that can be a big factor,” Armstrong said. “On the other end, I know that we’re pretty inclusive. There are transgender athletes on our swim team who are recognized for the gender identity that they are. “

When thinking of Title IX, the most often mentioned aspect is what it’s done for discrimination in sports even though it affects all education programs that discriminated against women.

Armstrong says the big focus with sports programs affected by Title IX is largely financial.

“We put a lot of money into athletics and so, not only are the administration, faculty, staff, and students seeing that part of it, even people in the community are seeing what happens at the athletic level,” Armstrong said.

Armstrong said, compared to when Title IX was first put in place, the act is giving women equal opportunity education-wise with still much-needed improvements to be made.

“I think there still needs to be a lot of work done when it comes to sexual harassment, as well as sexual orientation and gender identity,” Armstrong said.

Armstrong said one of the biggest things Title IX got rid of for women is the quota system.

“There was a time in our country’s history where it was assumed that women couldn’t go to school because, if a woman uses too much energy with her brain, then her uterus won’t be healthy,” Armstrong said. “This is just a step even further to show that women are fully capable of engaging in education at the same levels as men.”

In the area of ​​sexual harassment, Armstrong believes there can be improvements made on things like the training students are required to do at the beginning of school.

“Some people like myself, I try to get into it to really understand it and break it down, but I know some people just click to get through it,” Armstrong said. “I think there needs to be something maybe more engaging that will get people to also want to say okay, here’s a very serious issue.”

Armstrong said she’s knowledgeable about her protections as a woman at SIU as a student and a faculty member.

“One of the things that we try to make sure [of] is, ‘what are your protections as a student when it comes to sexual harassment,’ ”Armstrong said. “Also, as graduate teaching assistants, ‘what do we need to do to make sure our students are also safe?'”

Armstrong realizes one of the things students struggle with is seeking help when something does happen to them.

Making sure students know about services that can help would go a long way toward making sure they take that extra step to feel safe at SIU, Armstrong said.

“In the case of sexual assault, for example, there are so many additional services that the average student doesn’t know that start to go into effect that you can have access to, just because you came forward,” Armstrong said.

She said she personally knows people on campus who have felt discriminated against at SIU who have had protocols put in place to come forward with their problems in a safe and comfortable manner.

SIU has the Office of Equity and Compliance with Title IX coordinator Paul Frazier and multiple Title IX campus advisors to make sure equality is instilled on campus.

On the SIU website, categories on the OEC page include the Title IX policies, discrimination procedures, documents that students can fill out to report discrimination, and discrimination training information.

Staff reporter Jamilah Lewis can be reached at [email protected].

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