Christina Hoff Sommers
June 23, 2014
Senator Birch Bayh exercises with Title IX athletes at Purdue University, ca. 1970s. Bayh was author and chief Senate sponsor of Title IX. ( - Senatorial Papers of Birch Bayh, Indiana University)
A weary wrestling coach once lamented that his sport had survived the Fall of Rome, only to be vanquished by Title IX. How did an honorable equity law turn into a scorched-earth campaign against men’s sports? This week is the 42 anniversary of this famous piece of federal legislation so it’s an ideal time to consider what went wrong and how to set it right.
Title IX was signed into law by President Nixon on June 23, 1972. In 37 momentous words, it outlawed gender discrimination in all publicly supported educational programs. Before its passage, many leading universities did not accept women and law schools and medical schools often used quotas to limit female enrollment. As for sports, female student athletes were rare — and received precious little support from college athletic programs. The logic behind Title IX is the same as that behind all great civil rights legislation: In our democracy, the government may not play favorites among races or religions or between the sexes. We are all equal before the law — including students in colleges and universities receiving public funds.