Celebrating 40 Years of Title IX

Celebrating 40 Years of Title IX

Racheal L. Stimpson
Alamance Community College/National Assessment of Student Conduct Adjudication Processes Project
University of Nebraska-Omaha

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the passage of Title IX, which bars sexual discrimination at institutions of education. In April 2011, the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) issued a Title IX policy clarification, also known as the Dear Colleague letter. With the anniversary and the OCR “Dear Colleague” letter, Title IX is once again thrust into the forefront of higher education. To commemorate the anniversary of this important educational legislation, I discuss the history of Title IX followed by current and future challenges.

History of Title IX

Title IX mandates:

No person in the U.S. shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, or denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving federal aid (Title IX, Education Amendments of 1972).

President Nixon signed Title IX into law effective July 1, 1972, forever changing the landscape of higher education. Title IX is most widely known as legislation providing equality for women athletics; however, Title IX extends beyond sports encompassing 10 aspects of education: Access, Athletics, Career Education, Education for Pregnant and Parenting Students, Employment, Learning Environments, Math and Science, Sexual Harassment, Standardized Testing, and Technology (TitleIX.info 2012). Additionally, Title IX does not protect equality only for women in education; rather, Title IX protects equality for men and women in education, including students, faculty, and staff.

Bernice Sandler, dubbed the “Godmother of Title IX” by the New York Times, initiated the effort for the existence of Title IX in 1969. Sandler experienced sex discrimination while searching for a full-time faculty position, and she was unsure of where to turn or who would listen. Two years prior to Sandler’s experience, Executive Order 11246, which prohibits employment discrimination by federal contractors based on race, color, religion, or national origin, was amended to include the prohibition of sex discrimination. Sandler, with the assistance of the Women Equity Action League (WEAL), filed the first complaint based on sex discrimination under Executive Order 11246. This complaint was filed as a class action and as a result, Sandler set forth securing women’s stories of sex discrimination in higher education (Sandler, 1997).

Between Sandler, WEAL, various other organizations, such as the National Organization for Women (NOW), and individuals, more than 250 violations of Executive Order 11246 were filed. However, these charges were not enough to mandate enforcement of the Executive Order. Representative Martha Griffiths spoke to Congress to urge change to take place. Shortly after, Representative Edith Green was encouraged to hold Congressional Hearings on the matter, and, after much deliberation, she proceeded to hold those hearings. After days of testifying before Congress, Sandler was asked to join a congressional sub-committee charged with examining sex discrimination in education. Title IX was initially proposed as a result of the sub-committee work, as part of larger higher education legislation, and it was resolved to create a new title to address gender issues in education (Sandler, 1997). This new legislation was co-authored by Rep. Green and Rep. Patsy Takemoto Mink (the first minority woman in Congress) and was renamed The Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act in 2002 (Ruth, 2008). Overseen by the OCR, Title IX has endured several policy interpretations, seen numerous lawsuits challenging its interpretations and enforcement, and many challenges as to the need for its existence.

Current and Future Challenges

For many college administrators, one of the most current issues related to Title IX is the OCR Dear Colleague letter released in April 2011. The Dear Colleague letter was a policy clarification issued by the Department of Education for education administrators at the K-12 and higher education levels. This clarification focused on the sexual harassment portion of Title IX and intended to aid administrators in enforcing Title IX, as well as inform faculty, staff, and students of their rights under Title IX. The Dear Colleague letter provides information, also, as to how OCR enforces and reviews compliancy. At the center of this letter are several key points:

  • Institutions must investigate immediately once aware (or should reasonably be aware) of sexual violence
  • Institutions must stop sexual violence and/or harassment and protect individuals, prevent the sexual violence/harassment from occurring again, and address any effects on the individuals as a result of the sexual violence/harassment
  • Institutions must use a preponderance of evidence in the grievance process (i.e., student conduct hearings)
  • An institution’s grievance procedure must be publicized and include opportunity for all parties to present evidence and witnesses as well as an opportunity to appeal
  • Both parties must be notified of the grievance outcome (U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights, 2011)

There are many within higher education who applaud the OCR’s directives for procedural reforms (see Women in Sports Foundations and Association for Title IX Administrators ) while other groups, such as the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), question freedom of speech rights and ponder if there is a loss of due process. Additionally, there continue to be lawsuits filed under Title IX focusing on the sexual harassment component. There are current investigations ongoing at Duke, Yale, Princeton, Harvard Law School, and the University of Virginia, to name a few. The outcomes of these cases could have huge implications for higher education professionals as it relates to Title IX compliance.

Closely linked to issues of sexual harassment are cyberbullying and/or cyberstalking (1) on college campuses. Due to several high profile incidents that resulted in student deaths, new state laws (see New Jersey Education Association) addressing cyberbullying and cyberstalking are beginning to emerge. With increased technology, there are new ways to discriminate and harass. Consequently, Title IX amendments and policy clarifications will have to continue to evolve to protect and educate faculty, staff, and students in higher education.

Despite the near ubiquitous discussion and focus on the April 2011 Dear Colleague letter and sexual harassment, there are other pertinent contemporary issues connected with Title IX. Many detractors of Title IX argue that men are losing opportunities in education and athletics in order to make the playing field level for women. Others suggest Title IX does little to promote equity but instead discriminates against men, particularly when it concerns athletics. Specifically, there are those who suggest that, by bringing in more women’s sports, it creates a lack of opportunity for men who do not play football and/or basketball; in essence, the argument is that Title IX operates as a quota system (National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education, 2008). Given the contentious nature of many of these issues, the future more than likely holds additional lawsuits like those filed by the National Wrestling Association in 2003 challenging Title IX (AAUW, n.d.).

Complicating many of the issues facing Title IX is the continued polarization of American politics. Under the Obama administration, the Department of Education reversed a 2005 policy clarification allowing institutions to use a survey to determine women’s interest in sports, which fulfilled one of the three prong requirements to ensure gender equality in athletics (Sander, 2010). With this reversal in athletic enforcement, there could be future changes for institutions to implement, and institutions will have to bear the financial burden of implementing these changes. Parties with interests in gender equality will need to monitor OCR’s change in enforcement of Title IX related to intercollegiate sports to be sure that those changes are not detrimental to women’s or men’s college sports or that the gains in equality that have been achieved are lost.

No one knows for certain what the future of Title IX will be. There are many challenges that will face Title IX in the future. Some individuals argue that we have achieved equity in education and there is no longer a need for Title IX and have, in fact, suggested abolishing Title IX. It is important to understand that 40 years ago, Title IX was created to provide equality for men and women in education, and though it may go through iterations, it has proven itself beneficial for the greater good of education in the United States.

Discussion Questions

  • How does your institution educate faculty, staff, and students on Title IX?
  • What are your institution’s policies on cyberstalking?
  • What are some ways to increase faculty, staff, and student knowledge of Title IX (and institutional) policies?


1. Although there is not a universal definition of cyberstalking (Lockyer, 1999), commonly, cyberbullying is in reference to individuals under the age of 18 who experience online bullying. Cyberstalking refers to online harassment and threats experienced by individuals 18 and older (National Conference of State Legislatures, 2011).


AAUW. (n.d.). Legal Advocacy Fund Cases National Wrestling Coaches Association, et al. v. United States Department of Education. Retrieved from http://www.aauw.org/act/laf/cases/wrestling.cfm

Lockyer, B. (1999). 1999 Report on Cyberstalking: A New Challenge for Law Enforcement and Industry. Retrieved from: http://www.justice.gov/criminal/cybercrime/cyberstalking.htm

National Conference of State Legislatures. (2011). State Cyberstalking, Cyberharassment and Cyberbullying Laws. Retrieved from: http://www.ncsl.org/issues-research/telecom/cyberstalking-cyberharassmen…

National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education. (2008) Title IX at 35 Executive Summary: Beyond the Headlines A Report of the National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education. Retrieved from http://www.ncwge.org/PDF/TitleIXat35-summary.pdf

New Jersey Education Association (2010). Anti-bullying. Retrieved from http://www.njea.org/issues-and-political-action/anti-bullying

Ruth, J. E. (2008). Patsy T. Mink Papers at the Library of Congress. Retrieved from http://www.loc.gov/rr/mss/mink/mink-about.html

Sander, L. (April 20, 2010) Education Department Nixes Bush-Era Policy on Title IX Compliance. Retrieved from: http://chronicle.com/article/Education-Department-Nixes/65170/

Sandler, B.R. (1997). Sexual harassment. About women on campus, 6(2), 35-36.

Title IX, Education Amendments of 1972. 20 U.S.C. § 1681 Retrieved from http://www.dol.gov/oasam/regs/statutes/titleix.htm

TitleIX.info. (2012). History of Title IX. Retrieved from: http://www.titleix.info/History/History-Overview.aspx

United States Department of Education Office of Civil Rights (April 4, 2011). Dear Colleague Letter. Retrieved from http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/dear_colleague_sexual_viol…

Women in Sports Foundations and ATIXA. (2012). Retrieved from

About the Author

Racheal Stimpson is currently a consultant for NASCAP and teaches Women’s Studies for Alamance Community College. She holds a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership & Policy Studies from Virginia Tech, a M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction from UNC Greensboro, and a B.A. in English from Elon University. She has more than 10 years of experience in various areas of higher education including student activities, orientation, judicial affairs, academic affairs, research, and grants. She has authored several journal articles and a book chapter. She received the Research and Scholarship Award from ACPA’s Standing Committee for Women in 2009.

Please e-mail inquiries to Racheal Stimpson.


The ideas expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the Developments editorial board or those of ACPA members or the ACPA Governing Board, Leadership, or International Office Staff.

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