The Evolution of Title IX

Title IX looked a little different at Stetson in 1972 than it does now. So how has Stetson’s Title IX policy and implementation evolved since it was first put in place?

Calista Headrick, Opinion Staff

“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of or be subject to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

         This is Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972, a federal law put in place across the nation that works to prevent sex discrimination in education. It is the most vital part of ensuring that college campuses are working to protect the safety of students against any form of sexual violence, ranging from sexual harassment to sexual assault, intimate partner violence, or any degree of this that you can think of. But while today I think we tend to associate Title IX with issues of sexual violence on campuses, it held a slightly different idea of sex discrimination back when it was first established—that of equal representation in sports.

         The point of Title IX beginning from 1972 was to allow for the equal representation of women in varsity sports as men. An issue of The Reporter from 1997 reported that the law required that “the number of men and women participating in varsity sports must be proportional to academic enrollment.” It was a push for equal representation, but purely for athletic reasons. This is exactly how it stayed for many years on Stetson’s campus—purely in relation to sports. And this is exactly where we see the evolution of Title IX in the nation, and at Stetson as well.

         In 1975, according to an issue of The Reporter, there was controversy over the use of funds from the men’s sporting events to put toward scholarships to allow for women’s participation. An issue from 1999 reported on the administration’s lack of adherence to Title IX’s goals, after providing a “top-of-the line” baseball field for the men’s Division I team but nothing new for the women’s team. Issue III of 2003 included the Athletic Director at the time recognizing much needed efforts to improve the university’s compliance with Title IX and athletics. It wasn’t until an issue from 2014—over ten years later—that I came across a headline that included a mentioning of sexual assault in relation to Title IX.

         The year 2003 had Stetson responding to a White House sexual assault report. In 2015, Stetson held a sexual assault awareness forum hosted by the campus Title IX coordinators, but also revealing that out of nine schools, “We were the school with the highest rates of ‘worried someone would get back at you’” and “ranked the highest of the surveyed colleges in terms of sexual harassment reports, with 11.4 percent of female students surveyed saying that they had been coerced into sexual contact.” Although undoubtedly a significant issue on campus, this was also an important change from Title IX previously focusing solely on athletics. While issues of sexual assault are always prevalent across college campuses, it seems as though its prominence at Stetson was finally being recognized among the student body and administration.

         So the last decade is where we have seen the most change in relation to Title IX, and this is a huge step. We’ve seen this shift where Title IX without a doubt remains to include athletics in their policy of  nondiscrimination, but also focuses on sexual assault that in today’s society can no longer be ignored as it has in the past.

         In my opinion, Title IX at Stetson has only gotten better. Lyda Costello Kiser, Executive Director and Title IX Coordinator at Stetson University, gave me some of her thoughts about Title IX on campus. In her opinion, “Major societal change takes a long time. So I think when you’re talking about interpersonal violence but specifically sexual assault, sexual harassment, those kinds of things, it takes a while before people hear and send the message constantly of no it’s not okay. And Title IX is just a little piece of that.” The Office of Title IX on campus is completely committed to ensuring the protection and representation of students, and Kiser told me that “It’s important, I think, for people to understand that we want to help. We don’t want someone to not disclose and then end up failing the semester or leaving because they can’t handle it. We want to step in as early as possible to help because we really want our students to finish their education and achieve the goals they want to achieve.”

         Stetson and Title IX have evolved with the times. So many things are possible now that may not have been 20 years ago or when Title IX was first established in 1972. Kiser pointed out that “It has been kind of a natural evolution for it to include all of the things that we see that are related to issues of gender in education and perceived gender. And if you did Title IX right, the best part about it is that then you’re going to improve the diversity, and inclusion, and equity in your institution because people will be comfortable. People will come to your institution and participate fully because they feel safe. They feel that if they have an issue, it’ll be addressed.”

         It applies to everyone. No matter your gender, race, sexuality, no matter an issue in sports, a relationship, something that occurs in the classroom, at work, at a party—it all falls under Title IX. And I believe that Stetson has become fully committed to ensuring the protection and representation of its students. Things may have been different in 1972 than they are now. We can debate its effectiveness or if enough has changed from then to now, but one thing has stayed the same. Title IX is here for us.