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Title IX: 40 years later

June 12, 2012

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 is a comprehensive federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity. Simply stated, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

Created in hopes to better gender equality, Title IX strictly prohibits gender discrimination in any school or university that receives federal funding.  Title IX endeavors to achieve equal opportunity for both men and women, and Northern Illinois University strives to meet this objective in all of its programs and activities.

“The 1987 amendment clarifies that such federal prohibitions extend to all operations of the institution including student services, academic programs, admissions, financial aid, athletics, housing, residential life, etc. at NIU,” says vice president for administration and human resources Steven Cunningham.

In compliance with Title IX, NIU does not discriminate on the basis of sex in any of its education programs and/or activities, including but not limited to admission to or employment in its educational programs or activities. The success of NIU’s Title IX policies are reflected in its enrollment numbers—49 percent male and 51 percent female among undergraduate students, and NIU graduate school enrollment is 58 percent female and 42 percent male.

“NIU policies and procedures reflect the federal law as a basic standard of university operations, and an updated Title IX compliance policy was recently published on the university website,” adds Cunningham.

Many Title IX discussions revolve around student-athlete participation, as the legislation opened the world of competitive athletics to millions of American women. When Title IX was signed into law in June 1972, only seven percent of the nation’s high school athletes were female. Today the figure is 41 percent, according to a recent report by the Chicago Tribune.

Today, NIU fields 17 varsity sports, 10 women’s sports and seven men’s sports.  Analysis of the current rosters for each sport (not counting recruits) shows NIU participation rates similar to the national norm, with male student-athletes accounting for 57.5 percent (203) of all participants and female participation at 42.5 percent (150).  According to the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the average NCAA member institution had approximately 414 student-athletes in 2010-11, 236 males and 178 females.

In order to comply with the athletic requirements of Title IX, educational institutions must meet the requirements of three areas. No one part of the test is the predominant or “true” measure of compliance. The three parts of the test are:

1) Substantial Proportionality, satisfied when participation opportunities for men and women are “substantially proportionate” to their respective undergraduate enrollments.

2)  History and Continuing Practice, satisfied when an institution has a history and continuing practice of program expansion that is responsive to the developing interests and abilities of the underrepresented sex (typically female).

3)  Effectively Accommodating Interests and Abilities, satisfied when an institution is meeting the interests and abilities of its female students even where there are disproportionately fewer females than males participating in sports.

NIU has often been at the forefront of advancement of women’s participation in athletics.  Hall-of-famer Mary Bell coached field hockey, basketball, badminton, volleyball, swimming, and softball from 1957-76.  Cary Groth not only played at NIU from 1974-78, but the hall-of-famer became a head coach, administrator and later the athletics director, serving on President George W. Bush’s Commission on Opportunity in Athletics in 2003. NIU’s former hall-of-fame softball coach, Dee Abrahamson directed NIU to the College World Series and later oversaw 12 different sports within the athletics department, rising from assistant athletic director to senior associate athletic director and senior woman administrator while also serving as NCAA Softball’s secretary rules editor.

Northern Illinois University is committed to equal opportunity and a discrimination-free environment for all members of the university community. In its commitment to equal opportunity, diversity, and compliance with all applicable non-discrimination laws, policies and procedures, the university has established programs to ensure that all students and faculty, regardless of gender, are afforded the opportunity to receive and excel in his or her academic areas and fields of choice and expertise.