Title IX turns 40 this year. It’s 2012, and as women throughout the country celebrate the law that changed the face of gender equality, female Metro students go about their business with little recognition – a testament of Metro’s commitment to equal opportunities for its students.
In 1972, when President Richard M. Nixon signed Title IX into law, women were a minority at colleges and had limited opportunities in education, access to scholarships and little to no access in sports. Although the law is recognized as an equalizer for participation in sports, it doesn’t mention athletics. Title IX is about more than equal rights for women in sports, it’s really about making sure women have access to the same opportunities as men.
At Metro, Title IX falls under the Office of Equal Opportunity headed by Metro executive director Percy Morehouse, who knows that it takes more than just complying with the law to improve gender equality among Metro students and athletes.
“Before Title IX, women were discriminated against in the type of courses they would take, which ultimately affected the types of jobs they would get,” Morehouse said. “There were fewer women taking math and science, and that translated into fewer doctors, attorneys and engineers, [which were] predominately male fields.”
Four women graduated from Metro with a science or math degree in 1972. In 2012, that number increased to 173, a 7.11 percent increase in 40 years. Morehouse thinks that number could be improved with programs like Metro’s equity assistance center.
“I think the biggest accomplishment of Title IX is how many female athletes are able to participate in sports at a collegiate level and professional level.” ~ Alex Green, Volleyball, Junior
“Through this program, we offer training and other resources for K through 12 schools in six states to help promote equal educational opportunities for all students,” Morehouse said.
The EAC is one of 10 regional centers funded by the U.S. Department of Education under Title IV of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Educating Metro about gender equality doesn’t stop with students. Metro will hold Title IX training in August for various associate and assistant deans, as well as other administrators at Metro.
Title IX opened up more opportunities for financial assistance in the way of athletic scholarships. In 1989, a complaint was filed that Metro offered more funding for men’s sports than women’s. The claim was investigated and Metro was found to be noncompliant. Metro responded by adding scholarships for the volleyball program.
“Our goal is to make sure that men and women athletes have equal opportunities,” Metro athletic director Joan McDermott said.
Compliance is a bit of a numbers game and although some colleges struggle, Metro is proactive about meeting requirements.
“The first step is participation and matching that to the colleges overall percentage of male to female population. That is something we are always looking at,” McDermott said.
Metro was ahead of the game in regards to women’s access to athletics with volleyball, softball, basketball and track teams that were fielded in 1968. Tennis and swimming teams were added to the women’s sports program in 1971. The women’s soccer team formed in 1980 and made it to the NAIA semi-finals in 1984. Metro is in compliance but will be adding women’s golf in 2013.
“I think it’s [Title IX] helped me because this is why I’m here. They give you equal rights for men and women to play sports,” senior soccer defender Hayley Renko said.
“That’s the reason I’m here and I have a scholarship, so I think it’s helped me get to this point.”
Women coaches at Metro have also benefited from Title IX with increasing opportunities to transition from player to coach at the collegiate level but their experiences with the law is very different from the athletes they coach. In 1968, all of Metro’s women’s teams were coached by Patricia Johnson and Jane Kober. Now, each team has a coach specifically for that sport. All of Metro’s women’s team are coached by women with the exception of track and field and cross-country. The men’s tennis team is coached by female head tennis coach, Beck Meares.
Many Metro athletes don’t remember a time when girls didn’t have teams or money for uniforms, access to playing fields or college scholarships. Metro softball head coach Kristi Lansford experienced the benefit of Title IX first-hand.
“I think Metro does a good job at treating female athletes in an equal manner. They don’t do it because they have to, they do it because it’s the right thing to do.” ~Volleyball Head Coach Debbie Hendricks
“I grew up playing football and baseball with the boys in my neighborhood, and when they signed up for little league, I tried to sign up too and they told me no. So I became the scorekeeper,” Lansford said. “When I got out of the Air Force and went to college, it was a different story and I had opportunities in softball because of Title IX.”
Women’s head basketball coach Tanya Haave doesn’t think it is a bad thing that today’s female athletes don’t know about the law that gave them the numerous opportunities they now have.
“I think it’s a tribute to the leadership at Metro that our athletes don’t know the struggle. They have grown up not really knowing anything different,” Haave said. “But I do think that it is important for our athletes to be educated about Title IX so they know why they have the opportunities they have.”
Story by Angelita Foster
Photo credit Melanie J. Rice