Thursday marked the 50th Anniversary of Title 9 becoming Law. The landmark Law has had an immeasurable impact on the lives of American Women. On Thursday, Penn State celebrated that by marching from the “We Are” Statue to Old Main, where they held a rally.
Fifty years ago, President Richard Nixon signed Title Nine into Law. Neeli Bendapudi, President of PSU, when asked if the Anniversary means more now than ever: “I do. I think for so many reasons of everything that’s happening right now, it’s wonderful to have an opportunity for us to celebrate something that has truly made such a difference in so many lives and to think about what can actually happen in the next 50. We all need that sense of hope. And I’m so excited to be here.”
Title Nine says: “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 Education Program or activity.” That sentence adorned the shirts of many trekking through Penn State on Thursday.
While those marking fifty years had much to celebrate, some say this Anniversary comes at a crossroads for Women’s Rights in America. Ruth Williamson of the Centre County Domestic & Sexual Violence Resource Center saying: “I think every time that people come together — men, women, however you identify — that’s the voice of the people. And that’s how we cry out to say, what is most important is that equality and a chance at equal rights. And that’s what we all deserve.”
Marking the Anniversary, the U.S. Department of Education proposed changes to Title Nine, to strengthen protections against sexual harassment, for the LGBTQ+ community, and more. We asked Penn State’s New President — Neeli Bendapudi — about it. Bendapudi saying: “I think anything that strengthens the opportunity for every single student to feel like they belong and to reach their potential is something that we would welcome, as educators.” Bendapudi adding: “I love the fact that Penn State was always a pioneer. You heard how Penn State already had women’s athletics eight years before Title IX. And I do know that Penn State was one of the very first universities in the entire country to actually allocate those scholarships. So, I love that. So, it’s wonderful to be able to build on strength.”
Outgoing Penn State Athletic Director — Sandy Barbour — tells us she couldn’t even dream of serving as Director for one of the top Athletic Programs in the Country. Barbour saying: “No. I mean, that was hard to imagine because I couldn’t — there weren’t any other women that I could see in those positions that led me to believe that that might be something that I could dream to.” Barbour adding: “And then, eventually, there were women that were in athletic director positions, not very many, but there were women that made me say, ‘Yes, I can.'”
Something echoed frequently at the march was that we’ve accomplished so much, but there’s still more to be done. Barbour saying: “Well, the opportunities are not fully equal. We’re still, you know, whether it’s statistics or it’s kind of anecdotal about women in education, ’cause again, Title IX is back to education. Having the exact equal opportunities that men do, we’re not there yet. And until we’re there, the work is not done.”