40 Years of Title IX

Did you know that Title IX – ground-breaking legislation passed on June 23, 1972, seeking to provide American women equal educational opportunities – gained traction in the athletic arena because of the actions of the women’s rowing program at Yale University?

In 1976, Yale University had been a coed institution for just seven years. Women’s athletics were deemed a curiosity and treated as intramural programs. The women’s crew, though practicing on the same stretch of river as the men’s program, was provided with antiquated equipment. Even more frustrating was the policy that forced the women to sit on a bus, cold and wet after practices, while the men’s squad got access to the locker rooms.

Nineteen women from that 1976 crew chose to protest the unfair conditions, stripping bare in front of Joni Barnett, Yale’s director of physical education, revealing “Title IX” scrawled on their bodies. Their “Declaration of Accountability” drew massive attention to the issue, and by the following rowing season, a women’s locker room was added to the boathouse.

Over the past four decades, the implementation of Title IX has offered a plethora of new athletic opportunities for women, sometimes at the expense of  men’s programs like wrestling, that are less profitable for a university than football or basketball. Is it time universities reevaluate the extremely lopsided nature of their athletic program funding across the board?