Originally published Sept. 12, 2012

Grand Valley State University will host two events this year to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Title IX, which was issued in June 1972 to establish gender equality in all federally funded programs. Although meant to influence all programs receiving government money, the title is most known for its impact on female athletics, a field in which GVSU has found much success.

This fall, the athletic department, the movement science department and the Women’s Center will host middle school girls from the Grand Rapids Public School system to participate in National Women and Girls in Sports Day. The girls will engage in a sport’s clinic and discuss the benefits of females in athletics.

Jo Ann Wassenaar of the Women’s Center said “this event is held annually, but this year the leaders will incorporate pieces around Title IX.”

In February, GVSU will host Celebrate Women in Sports Day, which is a collaborative effort between the Athletic Department, the Movement Science Department, News and Information Services, Institutional Marketing, Alumni Relations and the Women’s Center. Alumni who were involved in varsity and club sports, physical education and movement science will be invited to attend.

Dana Munk of the movement science department helped organize the event, which she said will honor Patty Row, a former professor of physical education who helped develop its curriculum, and Joan Bond, former GVSU athletic director who established many of the women’s athletic programs.

Munk said the involved departments are also launching an endowment anchored in Row and Bond’s names for the advancement of female leadership in physical activity and sports. The fund will be used as scholarship or to offset the cost of student projects that would benefit female athletes and advance their opportunities in sports.

GVSU has so far been a leader in providing women opportunities in collegiate athletics, Munk said.

“Grand Valley has always kind of taken the lead in the development of women’s sports overall,” she said, adding that GVSU has taken the lead in increasing the number of available sports, providing quality coaches and improving facilities for women.

Although the men’s programs receive a total of $491,500 and the women’s receive $453,500 from the general fund, the scholarship funds allocated for men are $1,335,033 while the women receive $1,532,474 — a testament to the university’s efforts to support its female athletes and eliminate gender inequities.

“Keep in mind that when looking at these figures through the Title IX lens, it is not the dollar amount that matters, but rather the provision of equitable equipment, travel, apparel, facilities, etc…” said Keri Becker, associate director of athletics for GVSU. “The cost of outfitting a football player is greater than a volleyball player, but both groups of student-athletes receive equitable benefits.”

Because of Title IX, GVSU women’s sports programs have seen much success throughout the years. Becker said the female teams have been crucial in advancing the university’s athletics, as a whole.

“The eight NACDA Learfield Sports Directors’ Cups could not have been won without the success of our women’s athletic teams,” she said.

The female programs have also produced a number of individuals who took their playing to the next level. “We have hundreds of female athletes who are out there at the next level of their careers who have benefitted from Title IX,” Munk said, mentioning that a GVSU alum played in the inaugural season of the Women’s National Basketball Association.

A few alumni have even made it to the Olympic trials in their sports, including Sarah Zelenka who took fourth in rowing at the 2012 London Olympic Games. Many GVSU graduates also went on to coach college sports or work in physical activity professions. GVSU’s female athletes were not the only ones affected by Title IX, though.

Many men now have access to professions and educational programs previously considered female-only, like nursing, and women likewise have access to fields previously dominated by men.

Furthermore, GVSU modified and strengthened its gender-bias policy with the passing of the law.

“How we deal with sexual harassment and bullying changed with Title IX,” Wassenaar said. “Those policies put in place here were to reflect the changes with Title IX.”

Bart Merkle, dean of students, said he has noticed similar changes. “I’ve seen us take a hard look at our sexual harassment policy and constantly take a look at trying to understand, are we unknowingly…making decisions or running our programs or our services and our academic programs in any way that is unfair across the board to our students, and if so, how?’” Merkle said, citing gender-neutral housing as an effort by the university to ensure fairness to all students.

The dean said he hopes the efforts of GVSU help show students what equity means and how to combat inequity when it comes about.

In an effort to enforce Title IX throughout all university programs, GVSU has a Title IX coordinator, Dwight Hamilton, who “is responsible for monitoring and oversight of overall implementation of the University’s Title IX compliance, including the coordination of training, education, communications, and the administration of grievance procedures for faculty, staff, students, and other members of the University community,” according to GVSU’s Affirmative Action website.

To learn more about GVSU’s Title IX enforcement, visit the website at http://www.gvsu.edu/affirmative/—20.htm.

 

Original publication: http://www.lanthorn.com/article/2012/09/gv-plans-commemoration-of-title-ix

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