July 17, 2012

Title IX 40th anniversary

Though the law expanded opportunities for women in many arenas, it still faces challenges, experts say.

By Mike Lowe mlowe@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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Janet Judge, below, a sports law attorney from North Yarmouth, is regarded by many as one of the nation’s foremost experts on Title IX. Above: Judge, at age 10 in 1972, was one of the first girls to play Little League baseball in her native Maryland. That season, she was mostly intentionally walked or hit by the pitch.

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Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Additional Photos Below

'MASS MOVEMENT' TOWARD FITNESS

By allowing girls to participate in competitive athletics, Title IX -- renamed the Patsy Takemoto Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act after the late U.S. representative -- has affected society in many positive ways.

"When Title IX was passed, one of the things that wasn't widely recognized is the empowerment that comes with being physically fit and physically competent," said Nancy Hogshead-Maker, a former U.S. Olympic swimmer and the senior director of advocacy for the Women's Sports Foundation. "One of the hidden benefits has been this huge mass movement toward being physically fit, something that really changes the psyche of our country.

"Being physically fit and physically competent will fulfill you, will help you in other areas of your life. Kids who are physically fit get better educations, they complete school more readily, they're in the work force more. It is a very powerful thing for everyone to have a healthy, productive work force that is well-educated."

Julie Davis, the athletic director at the University of Maine at Farmington for the past 11 years, is quite succinct in her thoughts about Title IX.

"I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing if it wasn't for Title IX," she said. "That's for sure."

"I was a shy kid growing up," she continued. "Sports helps build your confidence and skill set and provides a vision of what you might be capable of. It did it for me and for boys."

SCHOOLS TRY TO DO THE RIGHT THIING

As colleges and universities across the nation grapple with Title IX compliance, athletic directors at the University of Southern Maine and other schools in the state say they have simply followed a basic tenet: Do the right thing.

"I think Title IX means making an honest effort to treat both genders the same," said Al Bean, the athletic director at the University of Southern Maine. "To make sure that you're providing equal access to both men and women and you're being fair about how you treat them.

"You want to make sure what you're doing for one, you're doing for the other."

Jeff Ward, the athletic director at Bowdoin College, said he often looks at how the college handles its sports teams. And while he must consider Title IX compliance, he thinks a school has to look beyond that.

"I really want our students, and I think the college really wants its female students, to know how much we value them," he said. "I would be negligent if I didn't look at things from a Title IX perspective every once in a while. But it's not really how we drive our policy.

"I ask myself, 'Am I being fair to everyone?' "

There are three ways a school can meet Title IX requirements:

If the percentages of male and female athletes are substantially proportional to the percentages of male and female students enrolled at the school.

If the school demonstrates it has a history and continuing practice of expanding athletic offerings for the underrepresented gender.

If the school's athletic programs effectively meet the interests and abilities of the underrepresented sex.

It's not always easy. Proportionality, for example, fluctuates on an annual basis as seniors graduate and freshmen enter.

"The hard thing is to stay compliant in an ever-changing environment," said Richard Barron, the women's basketball coach at UMaine. "Needs constantly shift, numbers constantly shift. You have to look at participation numbers, but you also have to look at what the needs are for that community.

"If 50-50 is the goal, but you've got a student body that's 60-40 women, but only 30 percent of the women have a desire to participate in athletics and 70 percent of the men do, how do you balance that?"

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Additional Photos

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The women’s crew team at Connecticut College put tape over the school insignia on their uniforms in 2000 to protest what they considered unfair treatment. Portland employment law attorney Julia Pitney, then Julia Greenleaf, is fifth from left.

Courtesy Julia Pitney

  


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